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Men and women alike have long appreciated the Mazda Miata for its agile handling, superb balance and sleek design. The scribes at Automobile magazine put it best when they said, "There is no other sports car that offers the same combination of engaging personality, practicality, affordability and sheer driving pleasure."

So it's no surprise that the same people who love to drive the Mazda Miata on the street had a craving to test its prowess on the racetrack. And a few years ago, the SCCA Spec Miata class was formed. It's the only class created by Miata owners rather than the manufacturer.

According to SCCA President Steve Johnson, Spec Miata is quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing classes in SCCA history rivaling the ultra-popular Spec Racer class, which began 15 years ago.

For anyone who has ever dreamt of going racing, the Spec Miata class is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to make it a reality. It's designed to provide an affordable nationwide class in which all regions use similar rules and regulations, allowing for crossover division-to-division racing with a year-end points championship.

And it's relatively inexpensive too. The field consists of 1990 to 1997 model year Miatas with limited modifications other than the suspension. Because rules are consistent race to race, there is no need for vehicle changes. And since the Miata is already one of the most reliable vehicles around, there's little maintenance.

"The Spec Miata series is the perfect place to get started in racing," said Steve Sanders, manager of MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development. "Whether the goal is to plant the seeds of a career in racing, or to just participate in what may be the world's most extreme weekend hobby, the Spec Miata series is challenging and rewarding, but, most of all fun."

Based on the overwhelming success of the amateur Spec Miata class, a new division called Pro Spec Miata was formed this year. It consists of nine races allowing the amateur racer to compete in a Pro series for prize money and contingencies and still maintain a modest operating budget.

Round five in this exciting series is the inaugural MAZDASPEED Cup, which is featured this weekend at Mazda Raceway. In fact, at press time, the MAZDASPEED Cup was on track to field one of the largest number of entries ever at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

"Participation in the MAZDASPEED Cup has been nothing short of extraordinary," added Sanders. "Within three days of its announcement, we were nearing our maximum number of entries."

Presented by MAZDASPEED and Toyo Tires, the MAZDASPEED Cup features a $10,000 purse. But the winner won't be the only one walking away with prize money because the race will pay out through 20th place.

The Miatas running in the MAZDASPEED Cup will be modified with the MAZDASPEED Spec Miata kit, which consists of Bilstein shocks, Eibach front/rear stabilizer bars, Eibach ERS springs and AWR coil-over kit. MAZDASPEED is Mazda's newly launched high-performance series, which includes vehicle development, street performance parts and accessories and motorsports.

"The MAZDASPEED Cup embodies everything that's MAZDASPEED - finely tuned vehicles, seat-of-your-pants driving and fantastic motorsports action," said Sanders. "It's sure to get your blood pumping as the Miatas hug the curves of Mazda Raceway as only the Miata can do."

Because, afterall, the Miata wasn't named the Guinness Book of World Records best-selling sports car for nothing. For more information, please click here.

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