Inside MX-5 Cup with Tom Long: Feeling the Pressure at Petit Le Mans
 November 1, 2021| 
  • Series News
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What a place to have the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires season finale! The Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta is not only the finale for our series, but also for other premier IMSA series. All of the championships come down to this event, making Petit Le Mans one of the season’s highlight. 

 

The Mazda MX-5 Cup drivers will be on center stage throughout the week as they battle for championship honors. At the most recent event at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, we saw a change in the points standings, with the top two—Gresham Wagner and Michael Carter—swapping places but still locked in a tight battle for the $250,000 title.

 

It's remarkable to note that the top rookies in the series, racing for $80,000 Rookie of the Year prize, are in the top five of the overall championship. This really demonstrates how successful these rookies have been in their first season of MX-5 Cup competition.

 

Petit Le Mans is one of my favorite events of the season. Not only is it a terrific time of year to be at Road Atlanta, with great fall weather that gives us both lower temperatures and lower lap times, but it is also an incredible atmosphere. Petit Le Mans is similar to events like the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona, yet at the same time, the feeling is completely different. It’s a season finale not just for the racing, but for the racing fans, as well. The caliber of competition is always top-notch, the fans pack the rolling hills around the circuit, and the nightlife among all the campsites is unique.

 

With all of that comes an incredible amount of pressure for the MX-5 Cup teams and drivers since they are on the world stage in front of thousands of fans while trying to tie up championship efforts. In addition to championship pressure, drivers also feel pressure from the track itself! Road Atlanta can be a very daunting racetrack, with lots of high-risk corners and minimal room for error. 

 

I can relate to the feelings the MX-5 Cup drivers are having right now from my first experience at Petit LeMans in 2005, when my own MX-5 Cup championship came down to the finale. I remember how truly special that day was and what an incredible feeling it was to park the racecar at Chateau Elan that evening in front of the fountain for the championship banquet. 

 

I also remember the pre-race feelings of uncertainty about what was going to happen, especially when it came to things outside my control. As a driver, it is so important to stay focused on things that are in your control and execute them perfectly to give yourself the best chance for success. 

 

No matter what happens at Road Atlanta come next week, I guarantee that we’re in for a great show that won’t disappoint! 

 

Tom Long is an accomplished sports car driver with a number of top honors to his name. His storied career with Mazda Motorsports includes his current role in the Mazda Global MX-5 Cup Series as a test driver, coach and race official. You can keep up with Tom on his blog at TomLongRacing.com or on Facebook

 

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