Being a factory driver with support from an automotive manufacturer is the ultimate dream of nearly every race car driver. Two dozen young competitors, many of whom are SCCA® members, were seeking exactly that during the annual Mazda Spec MX-5 Shootout and Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout conducted Nov. 15-16, 2023, at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, SC.
Over the two days, Mazda’s panel of judges were eyeing not just lap times around the circuit – also under scrutiny was each driver’s ability to digest data and apply coaching advice to improve performance throughout the event. Atop that, contestants were judged on savvy media skills, as well as their attitude and personality when it came to displaying gusto and a desire to learn.
“I was massively impressed with this group from a talent side,” Mazda Motorsports Business Development Manager Josh Smith said. “All of these young drivers, every year they step it up and make our job much harder. I feel like a broken record saying that, but it’s the truth. They have learned how to operate within the sport and they’re only just beginning. We couldn’t be more proud of them and it’s only going to set them up for success in their future endeavors.”
Spec MX-5 Shootout Winners
Up for grabs in the Spec MX-5 Shootout were three scholarships that offer winners additional training at a racing school. The real trophy, however, is testing and a full arrive-and-drive season on the Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tour now that the Spec MX-5 (SMX) class has been added to that series. Also included is an SMX ride at the 2024 SCCA National Championship Runoffs taking place Sept. 27-Oct. 6 at Road America. Throughout the season, Mazda also covers all entry fees and consumables. Plus, there’s a budget for travel, car damage, and more.
The three Spec MX-5 Shootout scholarship winners are Ethan Jacobs, Helio Meza, and Camden Hibbitt.
“I’m pretty excited to be a part of Mazda’s grassroots racing program,” said Jacobs, who is a member of SCCA’s Milwaukee Region. “I’m excited to see what I can do in the car next year and see if I can make it to the Shootout for the MX-5 Cup series.”
Meza commented, “It’s been a lot of hard work, not only on my side but on my friends and family. Last year we got nominated but I wasn’t a finalist, so this year to be picked as a finalist is an accomplishment on its own. To be here with the little seat time I have and be on the podium winning a check is unbelievable.”
Hibbitt, from SCCA’s Ohio Valley Region, noted that the Shootout was an incredible experience that will allow him to race beyond his means. “We don’t really have the money to go much farther beyond the Club Racing stuff, so for Mazda to give drivers like me and the other winners this opportunity is incredible,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough for this opportunity.”
Keep your eyes peeled for these three prodigies at upcoming 2024 Hoosier Super Tour events.
MX-5 Cup Shootout Winners
The 12 ambitious drivers competing in the MX-5 Cup Shootout were aiming for an entirely different opportunity with Mazda Motorsports. The finalists in that field were in the hunt for a single, ultimate scholarship valued at $110,000 to compete in the 2024 Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires series. One runner-up also received a scholarship valued at $75,000, and another $75,000 scholarship went to the best performing female driver.
Westin Workman, of SCCA’s Central Carolinas Region, was the big MX-5 Cup Shootout winner, thus earning the major scholarship. Nathan Nicholson, of SCCA’s Indianapolis Region, earned runner-up honors. Sally Mott, of SCCA’s Houston Region, received the woman’s scholarship.
“I feel amazing,” Workman stated in a Racer.com article. “I’ve been a part of the Shootout since 2020 and continued on with Mazda because the support they give grassroots racers is really amazing. I won the Spec MX-5 Shootout and now to win the MX-5 Cup Shootout is amazing.”
Photo courtesy Mazda Motorsports