Skip to main content

For aspiring race car drivers, the Mazda MX-5 Cup is perhaps the easiest entry point into competitive, nationally sanctioned competition. But even the cheapest motorsport isn’t actually cheap, costing nearly $100,000 before you even turn a lap.

How much does a Mazda MX-5 Cup car cost?

MX-5 Cup at Indianapolis
Mazda MX-5 Cup at Indianapolis | Mazda Motorsports

The latest Mazda MX-5 pricing updates rolled out in 2016, and an ND Miata MX-5 Cup race car carries an $80,000 price tag. That’s not especially expensive for roadgoing sports cars, and in the world of race cars, it’s downright cheap. Comparatively, a NASCAR NextGen Cup car is more or less a spec vehicle, and still carries costs of over $300,000, according to team owner and driver Denny Hamlin.

So to say that an MX-5 Cup race car is an inexpensive entry point isn’t inaccurate. But it also doesn’t paint the full picture. Competition costs including tires, crew members, travel, and entry fees mean that the total cost of one MX-5 Cup season can approach $500,000.

Who builds MX-5 Cup cars?

Each Mazda MX-5 Cup race car starts as a MX-5 Miata road car straight from Mazda’s Hiroshima factory. But teams don’t get to build these cars themselves. Instead, each unit goes to Flis Performance for outfitting before going on sale to prospective teams. Flis Performance adds an SCCA and IMSA-approved roll cage and removes all of the sound deadening and seam filler materials to reduce both weight and fire risk.

In addition, the stock transmission comes out, replaced by a sequential six-speed unit. The cost of a sequential racing gearbox for a Mazda MX-5 is $15,000, and that’s before installation. A new ECU and complete exhaust system replace the stock units, along with a competition radiator and oil cooler for improved reliability for long periods of high-performance driving.

A limited-slip differential and ACT race clutch and flywheel sit between the SADEV six-speed sequential transmission and the engine. And that engine is perhaps the one thing that remains: it is still the 180-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder from a showroom-new Mazda MX-5 Miata.

How much would it cost to build your own Mazda MX-5 race car?

Mazda MX-5 Cup race cars at Virginia International Raceway
2023 Mazda MX-5 Cup at Virginia International Raceway | Mazda Motorsports

Let’s say you had no intention of IMSA or SCCA racing, but simply wanted a raucous, street-legal race car experience in your own Mazda MX-5. Well, as mentioned, the six-speed sequential transmission is, by itself, ⅔ the cost of a new Mazda MX-5. That’s not to mention the cost of modifying the rear subframe to make it fit.

In addition, two-way adjustable coilovers run approximately $3,500 a set, and the four-wheel Brembo race brakes come with a similar cost.

The exhaust system is completely illegal in most states. But if you’re in a state with no inspections, you can add the stainless steel exhaust for $1,200 to $1,500. Finally, the radiator, oil cooler, and intercooler upgrades combine for another $2,000. The ECU, unfortunately, is reserved only for MX-5 Cup Car applications. That said, a Mazda MX-5 tune can range from $300 to $700, depending on the supplier.

Frankly, this is just the beginning of what it takes to make a Mazda MX-5 road car into a race car. With over 250 race-specific parts, buying everything individually is expensive, bordering on irresponsible. The full list of homologation parts from Flis Performance shows everything required to make it happen.

Racing is almost never cheap

Unless you’re taking part in Lemons racing, there is almost no way to go racing for cheap. And even modifying your road-going sports car for racing applications can cost as much as the car itself. If you’ve got the cash, have all the fun you want. But for the rest of us gearheads, local short track and auto crossing will have to be enough to satisfy that racing itch.

Related 2023 Mazda Miata Engine: All the Specs You Need to Know

2023 Mazda Miata Engine: All the Specs You Need to Know