When the MX-5 Cup professional racing series switched from the NC-generation MX-5 to the new ND MX-5 Miata last year, Mazda ensured that owners of the newly retired cars would have plenty of options for future competition. If you have a stock MX-5 Cup, you can run it in the SCCA’s T4 or STL classes. It is also approved for endurance racing with both AER and WRL. Last but certainly not least, you can make a few changes and run in the Pirelli World Challenge.
Or you can be like Charley Lowe, and try doing all of the above.
In August 2015, Charley took a weekend off from her job as a financial advisor to try her first track day. A year later, she had her SCCA license courtesy of the Skip Barber Racing School. “I really liked and trusted the NC MX-5,” she says, “so when I went shopping for a race car I didn’t really look for anything else.” Her car, which is nicknamed “Marilyn” because it first raced in the Playboy MX-5 Cup a decade ago, was restored for her last fall by Spec Miata and SCCA legend Jim Daniels.
In her first endurance event with her new Mazda, Charley’s team was in contention for a podium spot. Then she picked up some oil in Mid-Ohio’s “Thunder Valley” and hit the tire wall at about 50 mph. “It’s racing. You have to crash sometime,” she shrugs. “Marilyn and I managed to escape with just a few bruises.” The MX-5 was reassembled in an all-night “drift stitching” bodywork session and was able to finish the following day’s race without difficulty.
For Charley, tracing Marilyn’s racing history has been part of the fun for her. The car was delivered from the factory in Sunlight Silver, but was repainted in a metallic blue six years ago. Next year, she’s going to change the color once more—to the famous shade of baby blue used by her favorite jewelry store.
Since her last round of racing, Charley has implemented a major program of improvements including a complete interior re-trim with carbon-fiber parts, a fresh coat of paint, and a suspension rebuild. In 2017, she’d been running at the sharp end of the pack and even leading the race a few times.
The SCCA season is next. Her next ambition? Charley is determined to try a pro race with the Pirelli World Challenge. “I have confidence in the car, and in myself,” she explains. “We’ll just have to see how far the two of us can go.”