Track Tested - 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Road Test

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Track Tested

March 08, 2011

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Track Tested 

Sometimes, things just don't go as planned. The goal was to run acceleration, braking and handling numbers on Project Miata, our 1997 Mazda Miata, now that it's been infused with a Kraftwerks supercharger kit and meaty 6UL shoes.

Two out of three ain't bad.

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Track Tested 

Project Miata struggled this time around with a very tired and very stock clutch during the runs down the drag strip. After a single acceleration run with the thing slipping, we decided to scrub any further acceleration testing. Thus, the acceleration performance it posted is not representative. Nevertheless, that single accel run is shared below as an FYI.

We have a new clutch on the way and will re-test once it's in.

Our testing of its handling, on the other hand, went quite well. Check out the grip and the slalom speed, as well as Chris' comments. Yowza!

To recap, we'd run numbers on the current FatCat Motorports suspension back when it was on the white car. We never had a chance to track-test this hardware in conjunction with the 949Racing 6UL wheels and Hankook R-S3 tires, though, until now.

Vehicle: 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Odometer: 129,627
Date: 3/1/11
Driver: Chris Walton

Drive Type: Rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Five-speed manual
Engine Type: Supercharged and intercooled inline-4
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,839/112
Redline (rpm): 7,200
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 173 @ 6,900 (Dynojet chassis dyno)
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 141 @ 5,900 (Dynojet chassis dyno)
Brake Type (front): 10.0-inch one-piece ventilated cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): 9.9-inch one-piece solid cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Steering System: Hydraulic-assist rack-and-pinion power steering

Suspension Type (front): Double wishbones, FatCat Motorsports adjustable ride-height coilovers with coil springs and monotube dampers, Racing Beat hollow stabilizer bar and 949Racing endlinks
Suspension Type (rear): Double wishbones, FatCat Motorsports adjustable ride-height coilovers with coil springs and monotube dampers, 949Racing endlinks
Tire Size (front and rear): 225/45ZR15 87W
Tire Brand: Hankook
Tire Model: Ventus R-S3
Tire Type: Summer
Wheel Size: 15-by-9 inches front and rear 949Racing 6UL
Wheel Material (front/rear): Aluminum
As Tested Curb Weight (lb): 2,344

Test Results:
0 - 30 (sec): 2.8
0 - 45 (sec): 4.9
0 - 60 (sec): 7.7
0 - 60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 7.4
0 - 75 (sec): 10.7

1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 15.6 @ 90.3

30 - 0 (ft): 27
60 - 0 (ft): 112

Slalom (mph): 71.8
Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 1.01


Acceleration: Clutch cannot handle both an aggressive launch AND wide-open throttle upshifts -- obvious clutch slippage after each upshift. Still, it feels and sounds like the meanest Miata I've ever driven. Still love the shifter, but I would move the pedals slightly for easier heel-toe action.

Braking: Cold tires really confused the ABS system for the first stop. I thought it was just the tires and ABS not getting along so I did several non-ABS stops which proved very easy to find the threshold. After returning to ABS, found it worked best in the end.

Handling: Skidpad: Awesome balance, poise and compliance. This is how I would want a racecar set up. Steering is direct, precise, responsive and informative. The nearly-identical counter-clockwise and clockwise times speak to the amazing balance in theis setup. Didn't hit/feel bump stops or rub a tire.

Slalom: Took a few runs to get the tires to proper temp (first few I could tell the fronts were cold and not working). Then the balance I was expecting gave me confidence to attack. Like a Lotus, there's more roll than expected in transition, but also tons of grip and control (throttle-steer and steering-steer are both available and predictable). Joy!

--Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

Photos by Mark Takahashi

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Research