Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Alumni Making an Impression in IMSA and Abroad
 September 2, 2021| 
  • Series News

Time and again, the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires has produced talented and successful racers. With a big focus on parity of equipment that puts the results in the drivers’ hands, Mazda MX-5 Cup has not only produced some great racing, but it has also helped to develop some great racers through the years.


A winner of multiple Mazda MX-5 Cup races and the 2015 Skip Barber class champion, Robby Foley has taken his experience all the way to Le Mans. Only a few weeks ago, Foley was behind the wheel for Team Project 1 in the GTE AM category, earning his rookie stripes at the Circuit de la Sarthe.


Foley2“I would say the intensity of racing in MX-5 Cup prepares you for other racing in that you have to be very aware of what’s around you,” Foley said. “All the cars are so closely matched and you’re racing very close; that kind of attention and awareness and strategy is important to learn the flow of racing. The driving is not so similar to the cars I drive now, but the racing and the style of racing prepares you well for dealing with traffic and race craft in general.”


Foley currently leads the GT Daytona point standings in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with co-driver Bill Auberlen. The duo won the most recent round at Road America. He is also second in GS points in the Michelin Pilot SportsCar Challenge.


“If you can win in MX-5 Cup you’re well prepared to win in other categories,” Foley said. “I think you’ve seen that with other race winners and champions in the series that have gone onto bigger and better things. For me, it was a logical first step in my career and one that I really enjoyed and I’m happy I had that experience.”


LAT-WG1-0621-09757There are no shortage of MX-5 Cup success stories in the Michelin Pilot Challenge. In the Tioga Downs Casino Resort 240 at The Glen, both class winners were MX-5 Cup grads. Todd Lamb, the 2009 MX-5 Cup Champion, and his co-driver Ryan Eversley were on the TCR top step and in GS, co-drivers Stevan McAleer and Patrick Gallagher are both former MX-5 Cup Champions (McAleer in 2012 and Gallagher in 2017).


“I think MX5 cup really prepares you for wheel-to-wheel racing and race craft as you move up the ladder,” Gallagher said. “It’s impossible to win a MX-5 Cup race without having great race craft and that is a skill you will never lose. It forces you to think through your moves over a stint and make sure you take care of your equipment at the same time to push at the end.”


Last year’s championship runner-up Robert Noaker has already taken his first win as a rookie in the Michelin Pilot Challenge. He and Brian Henderson (another MX-5 alum) won the Watkins Glen 120.


Noaker2“I started Mazda MX5-Cup four years ago,” Noaker said. “I spent the time to learn about the setup of the car and how everything worked, that’s part of how I started to figure out how to have a car slightly better than my competitors where I wanted it. Other race craft scenarios were paying attention to other drivers’ weaknesses and where to take advantage of them. Part of that was always doing the track walk and understanding the entire track so when you ended up on the outside you knew exactly what you were dealing with. These are invaluable skills that I’ve taken with me that worked in TCR, GTD and Trans-Am cars.”  


Beyond the learning experience, MX-5 Cup is just fun, which is why you’ll always see series alumni ready and willing to hop back behind the wheel.


“If I was offered the chance in a competitive car, I would for sure do it again,” Foley said. “It’s always great fun to drive them and I’d always love to jump back in especially at a track like Laguna Seca where I had the most success in MX-5 Cup. I’d love to do a race there again.”


Maybe Foley will get his wish, because next on the MX-5 Cup schedule is WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, September 10 – 12. Race One is scheduled for September 11 at 3pm ET. Race Two will take place September 12 at 12:25pm ET. Both races will be streamed live on


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