Last week was a big one for Mazda Motorsports: it was the annual MX-5 Cup Shootout at Sebring International Raceway. This year, Mazda was awarding $250,000 in scholarships. It was a very talented group of finalists, including nine men and three women competing for top honors.

The format was expanded to a two-day event this year, which was great since there were also more finalists than ever before. The longer event gave the drivers more time to get comfortable with the MX-5 Cup car and more laps on Sebring’s short course.

We had beautiful weather on both days and really close competition. Several drivers were very similar to each other in lap time performance, which was a main factor, but certainly not the only factor!

Over the course of the two days, the drivers had access to video, data, coaching and also a live video feed of the other drivers while they were on track. That feed included live timing hosted on IMSA’s website. The amount of information the drivers had access to this year was bigger and better than ever. This allowed the drivers to not only work on their own skills but to also gauge their competitiveness.

In the end, there were three finalists who came away with scholarship prizes. The overall winner, Connor Zilisch, took home the $100,000 prize for next season’s MX-5 Cup series. Runner-up Bryce Cornet won $75,000, and Laura Hayes won the $75,000 Mazda’s Women’s Initiative scholarship.

I’m very excited to see these drivers compete next season in Idemitsu MX-5 Cup. Their off-season time to get prepared will be very short, since Daytona will kick off the 2022 calendar in just a few short months.