It’s not often that I ask to ride with someone on track. Even more rare are those times when I ask to ride on track with someone in a Miata. I’ve driven enough cars on track and ridden in enough cars on track that unless someone asks me to ride with them (or I am instructing), I’m not in the passenger seat. Last fall at Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was one of the super rare times that I asked to ride with someone in a Miata. Yes, a Miata. A low horsepower, slow, ugly Miata. And I loved it.
Listen in above as editor Austin Cabot talks to Andrew Kidd about this particular Miata.
This Miata’s name is Rover. It’s got around 215k miles on the chassis and was born in April of 1989 as a 1990 model year and is one of the oldest (and wisest from what I’ve seen) Miata’s around. Rover is owned by Andrew Kidd of Trackspeed Engineering. Andrew is the reason I asked for a ride. The guy can straight up wheel a car. Thus, in the two days I was at Laguna Seca, the ride with Andrew is the only ride I seeked out. We had been friends in common – friends that are also drivers and I trust when they say a driver is fast. That’s how Andrew came up on my radar back in 2012. If fast guys say you’re fast…you’re fast and I want to know you.
Andrew picked up Rover back in 2009 to part out. It had a turbo 1.6 liter BP motor in it at the time and a welded in half cage. The original intent was to part out and sell the car, but the welded in half cage prevented the car from being turned back to stock. So, the car sat for 9 months in front of Andrews house with Andrew not knowing what to do with it. Around that time, Andrew’s dad was tracking an M3 and the consumables were getting a little expensive, so they decided to build a Miata. (People tracking fast cars, take note – this is a recurring theme here on tracktuned.com) Originally the car was built with a 1.8 liter VVT miata motor (2001-2005 for those of you that don’t know Miatas), with a 6 speed and a 4.3 Torsen. At that time, they also installed an AEM series 1 ECU, header, and intake in the car and drove it back and forth to the track for the next two years.
Fast forward to 2012. Andrew decided to finish out the cage on Rover and go racing with it. With NASA, the Miata is a popular Performance Touring E (PTE) car and that’s where Andrew aimed his sights. The car progressed in its optimization for the class - soon sporting a custom 4-2-1 exhaust tuned for a broad torque band, 4.77 rear end with OG Giken LSD, Racepak IQ3, 949 Twin Disk clutch with organic disks, and a lexan windshield from Racing Shields which dropped 11 lbs from the factory glass windshield. Andrew ran the car at Miller Motorsports park in 2013 for the NASA National Championships and was in contention for the win battling with Jason Kohler in PTE when a mechanical failure caused him to retire early. That motor was a built 2.0 liter unit making around 138hp and was capable of being run up to 8k rpm when needed.
As any good racer does, Andrew didn’t let that stop him and is constantly working on the car trying to optimize it better to make it faster. The suspension is a custom AST 5100 setup built to spec by HVT in Texas. The latest iteration features double digressive pistons. It’s currently sporting stock sway bars and end links with 1000 lb front springs and 500 lb rears. Andrew says he may put a front sway back on it and go back to 800 lb springs up front – it’s just a little too bouncy through turn 10 at Laguna Seca.
The car also had a set of 1.8 Miata brakes added recently. After the engine let go at NASA Nationals in 2012, Andrew put another junkyard VVT Miata motor in it with a euro intake manifold, intake, and the same 4-2-1 exhaust and AEM ecu. He estimates that it’s making around 140hp to the wheels currently. The car currently sports a set of 15x9 949 Racing 6ul wheels with 225/45/15 Maxxis RC-1 tires, which Andrew says will run about 30 heat cycles with lap times within a half second of each other. The RC-1 is the current spec tire that the SuperMiata racing series in California is running. Andrew says the series is a lot of fun and the racing is really, really good. Knowing the people behind the series and a few of the competitors, I more than believe him.
“The car is a weird mix of really nice parts and super ratty,” Andrew says. For me, that’s what attracts me to it. Something about a beat up car, but with nice parts reminds me of the current trend in the muscle car world of cars with patina but all the modern amenities. Rover is a car that could be replicated with the same parts, but it still wouldn’t be the same. It’s got personality and it’s got it’s own story. Sure, it’s a Miata. Sure it’s low on horsepower – but pair it with a great driver with the skills and knowledge to set it up right and you end up with me wanting a ride…and that’s something that doesn’t happen often.
And now for the good stuff - a video of Andrew Driving Rover in a NASA PTE race at Laguna Seca. It's going to make you want to build a PTE Miata. Trust Me.
Much thanks to Andrew Kidd for his time and expertise. For more on Andrew and Trackspeed Engineering, visit www.trackspeedengineering.com