Coaching Ashton at the SIC at Roebling.

Coaching Ashton at the SIC at Roebling.

This past weekend was the Southeast Division championship for the SCCA, which is known as the Southeast Invitation Challenge (SIC). It’s held at Roebling Road Raceway every year – I remember competing at the SIC in 2001 in Showroom Stock. It was my first championship win, so it was fun to be back at that event last weekend.

I was coaching Ashton Harrison again as she prepared to wrap up a successful 2015 season. She competed in Spec Miata all season and was looking forward to capping it off with a good outcome at the SIC.

Ashton had never raced at Roebling before, and it’s a very different type of racetrack – it’s very flat and high speed, so it requires a different type of driving style with a lot of flowing momentum and slow steering hands. There aren’t the heavy braking zones or tight corners that you find at other tracks.

We used the test day to get Ashton adapted to the track before qualifying on Saturday. She qualified 12th, which was really encouraging for her first time racing there. That afternoon, she raced the enduro for practice and track time. We drove in 20-minute segments and focused on different things that we knew we needed to work on from analyzing data and video. It was essentially a 1.5-hour practice session!

Sunday morning was the big championship race, and it was an exciting one. The lead pack was battling the entire race, so it was a lot of fun to watch. Ashton was at the front of the second pack, running just outside the top ten. She mixed it up with some really good drivers, so she certainly rose to the challenge.

It was a great end to the season, and I think it left Ashton hungry to continue developing her racecraft over the winter. In the past year that I’ve worked with Ashton, I’ve seen huge development in her racing skills and overall preparedness for the weekend. She comes into each race armed with notes and knowledge from studying video and iRacing, and she’s improved at analyzing data. All in all, she’s a more mature race car driver, and her results reflect that.

There was a lot of buzz among the Spec Miata racers at the SIC about the new 2016 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car. Now for sale, the car is considered one of the best values in sports car racing. Transitioning from club racing into the pro ranks can be a very difficult task, and typically one of the main reasons is that the costs associated with pro racing are much higher.

Spec Miata racing is such a great value for club racers, and the transition to the Global MX-5 Cup Series is a perfect segue into pro racing because it has a lower entry cost. It’s a not just about the cost of the car: there are only six venues on the calendar, and each is a doubleheader weekend– you get 12 races for the cost of six weekends. You also get to race at the best tracks in the country during headline race weekends with IMSA endurance sports car racing and IndyCar. It’s a great step to the Mazda Ladder System, and it’s part of the #MRT24 to help racers get from club racing to the 24 Hours of Daytona.