The second-generation Star Mazda, with its carbon-fiber tub, fully adjustable suspension and aerodynamic package, six-speed sequential gearbox and dead-reliable 240-horsepower Mazda Renesis rotary engine, is the perfect entry-level formula race car. So it should be no surprise that the Star Mazda Series has produced a host of young star racers, from Indy car racers Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal to Formula One vet Scott Speed, Grand Am Daytona Prototype star Colin Braun and NASCAR Sprint Cup racer (and former Star Mazda series champ) Michael McDowell.
The series, begun in 1991, originally featured a tube-frame car with a less powerful version of Mazda’s rotary powerplant. The 2004 introduction of the current-generation car helped take the series to the next level. Sanctioned today by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), the Star Mazda Series runs on professional race weekends with the American Le Mans Series and Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series, and sometimes as the feature event on its own weekends.
With a dry weight of 1,140 pounds (as raced minimum weight including driver and fluids of 1,320 pounds) and a power-to-weight ratio of 1:5, a Star Mazda will accelerate from zero to 60 in less than three seconds, and attain a top speed of 150+ mph. Because the Star Mazda Series is a spec series, budgets are within reason (and each year’s winner of the Skip Barber National Series receives a $300,000 scholarship from Mazda for the following Star Mazda season.) But while the sealed spec engine means equal horsepower for all competitors, young drivers and their race engineers have the chance to master the critical science of chassis tuning – both mechanical and aerodynamic – that’s necessary for advancement up the motorsport ladder.