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-- Field of 9,000 narrowed to 220, then to nine, before the final tally --

January 10, 2008 (Irvine, Calif.). How many racers did Brad Rampelberg beat to win a new Mazda MX-5 and the parts to build a Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Car? It depends upon your point of reference. There are approximately 9,000 people racing Mazda products in the U.S., ranging from the occasional autocrosser in their daily driver MAZDA3 to full-on club racers hitting the tracks a dozen or more times a year. From that pool of 9,000, over 200 qualified for the SCCA Runoffs and NASA National Championships. From the SCCA and NASA Championships emerged nine Mazda-powered champions, from which one would be selected to move up to the professional ranks.

The nine finalists:

Bob Bradfield

Aptos, Calif.


Mazda RX-7

Jim Goughary Jr.

Jupiter, Fla.

SCCA Formula Mazda

Formula Mazda

Robert Huffmaster

Rochester Hills, Mich.


Mazda RX-8

Todd Lamb

Covington, Georgia

NASA Spec Miata

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Jesse Prather

Topeka, Kansas


Mazda MX-5 Miata

Brad Rampelberg

San Jose, Calif.

SCCA Spec Miata

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Greg Stasiowski

Canonsburg, Penn.


Mazda MX-5 Miata

Thomas Thrash Jr.

Houston, Texas


Mazda RX-7

Keith Wise

Newark, Ohio


Mazda RX-7

The criteria: Given that each of the nine had proven themselves on the track to win a championship, the criteria to move up needed to be more encompassing. To succeed on the professional level requires a balance of both on-track and off-track skills including the following:

  • Driving ability - fast laps
  • Driving ability - consistent laps
  • Technical feedback - Understanding of vehicle dynamics and suspension
  • Technical feedback - Ability to evaluate vehicle handling
  • Technical feedback - Ability to analyze data
  • Technical feedback - Ability to improve vehicle handling
  • The business of motorsports - Sponsorship proposal
  • The business of motorsports - Media interview

The judges: The six judges brought a wealth of both on-track and off-track expertise.

  • Guy Ankeny - ProParts, USA,
  • Andrew Caddell - 2006 MX-5 Cup Shootout winner, 2007 MX-5 Cup series Runner-Up
  • Charles Espenlaub - Professional Mazda racer, SPEED World Challenge/GrandAm GT
  • Preston Lerner - Freelance writer, Club Racer
  • Tim Sharp - Grassroots Motorsports Magazine, professional driver coach
  • John Zimmerman - Freelance writer

The tally: After a full day of both driving and classroom activities, six judges scored nine drivers in eleven categories, resulting in 594 scores. When the scores were added up, and compared against the subjective gut feel of the expert panelists the answer was very close, but consistent: Brad Rampelberg had the greatest potential to succeed on the professional level in 2008. It was noted however, that several of the nine clearly demonstrated both the skill and commitment required to succeed in racing.

Brad's prize package: The total prize package is valued at over $70,000 and is the largest prize in club racing. Brad will be receiving:

  • One 2008 Mazda MX-5
  • All of the MAZDASPEED competition parts required to prepare the car to race
  • One Sparco driving suit and helmet
  • Eight sets of Kumho tires, one per race weekend (thanks to Kumho)
  • Eight entry fee waivers (thanks to SCCA Pro Racing)

The quotes:
Brad Rampelberg -- "Having been a Mazda racer for the last five years, I've come to admire the way Mazda takes care of us, the club racing driver. I'm so thankful to Mazda to be invited to participate in their motorsports ladder and I hope to repay their investment in me in 2008 and beyond. I know the Hooverspeed team will prepare a fast and reliable car, thus I can devote my off-track time to seeking sponsorship dollars and making sure our partners receive the best possible return on their investment."

Robert Davis, Senior Vice President, Product Development and Quality, Mazda North American Operations - "The core of the MAZDASPEED business is our club racing customer. This program is at the heart of what strive for, making motorsports accessible to as many people as possible. Brad has worked hard to get to this point in his career, and Mazda is happy to help him make the jump to the professional level."

Charles Espenlaub, Mazda racer - "It was an honor to be involved in such a great event as the Mazda MX-5 Shootout, the strength of the competitors and the energy of the contest make for a very rewarding experience for all. To have the top Mazda champions in one place and the winner determined by such a small margin only added to the excitement."

Next Up: The 2007 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup begins at the Grand Prix of Houston, the weekend of April 25-27.

Mazda is the brand of choice for road-racers across North America. More than 9,000 grassroots racers compete in various classes with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the National Auto Sport Association (NASA). Racers who are years away from earning a driver's license can now begin their professional motorsports careers in the Mazda family. A driver can begin in karts and progress through the Skip Barber series, Club Racing Formula Mazda, professional Star Mazda and finally to Formula Atlantic, all with Mazda. No other car company has ever connected the dots this way.

On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle. At the track, you'll see MX-5 Miata, RX-8, MAZDA3, MAZDA6, RX-7 and other vintage Mazda models competing, because every Mazda has the Soul of a Sports Car. In fact, the largest road-racing class in the world is Spec Miata, with more than 1,500 first- and second-generation Miatas tearing up America's racetracks, making it the most-raced production car in the world. Mazda's involvement in motorsports extends to its relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the world's premier road-racing circuits, and the Skip Barber Schools for driving and racing.

Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.

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