Last week was the first official event of the 2020 season for the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Series Presented by BF Goodrich. It was the summer training test at Mid-Ohio, which kicked off the series’ return to the track as everyone prepares for the first race at Road America later this month.
There was a lot of anticipation going into the test because of all the changes that were made during the off-season, with the most significant being the new SADEV sequential gearbox. We had 20 competitors at the test who were eager to get started.
It was great to have that much participation because one of Mazda’s goals was to garner as much feedback as possible from the teams about the gearbox and all of the fine-tuning that had been done in the off-season to make it a turnkey upgrade.
My role was to continue evaluating the gearbox adjustments for Flis Performance, the new supplier and series support team for the Global MX-5 Cup Series. With so many facets to making a sequential gearbox operate flawlessly, we had a lot of details to finalize. Not only did Mazda collect valuable test-driver feedback, but all of the teams really helped develop the points that will make this gearbox a flawless upgrade. Features such as the no-lift upshift, the auto-blip downshift, and just the general feel for the gear changes were all aspects that we collaborated on.
This gearbox is a great balance for drivers who struggle with heel-toe downshifts, but it also allows drivers who have mastered heel-toe shifting to assert more control in the shifting process.
We found that most drivers felt the auto-blip feature was adequate for a typical downshift, but if downshifting while the car is turning or unloaded, an additional bit of throttle input would help enhance that blip to make the downshift even smoother. This was a key component to successfully navigating many of the undulating corners at Mid-Ohio, which can be a challenge.
Upshifting is a bit more straightforward, and it’s really an exhilarating feeling to stay flat-out on the throttle while pulling the lever for a quick, decisive shift to the next gear in less than 100 milliseconds. Of course, each driver is a little different in how they prefer the power to ramp back while upshifting out of particular corners. With this gearbox, you have the ability to lift off the throttle to create a smooth upshift when the car is unbalanced, or to even use the clutch, which provides a very smooth transition in tricky conditions, like the rain. The gearbox really gives drivers a lot of flexibility so they can shift in the way that best suits their driving style, the track conditions, or the course layout.
It was impressive to see the pace of the cars increase with this new gearbox, and as drivers got the setup optimized for their own driving style, the lap times really started to plummet.
It will be very exciting to see the full field come together for the first race at Road America in just a couple of short weeks!