Appearances can be deceptive – and the Mazda MX-5
GT is a prime example. While its bold body decals are a bit of a giveaway to its on-track potential, the rest of the car looks pretty standard. Better still, the neatly proportioned two-seater is free of any ugly aerodynamic additions. However, there’s more to this MX-5 than meets the eye.
To reduce weight, the GT car has been put on an extreme diet by Jota Sport, which builds and campaigns the car for Mazda. The bare shell has been dipped in acid to strip off excess paint and sealant, which helps shed an incredible 17kg. Meanwhile, carbon fibre doors replace the steel items and the cabin has been stripped out. As a result, the MX-5 tips the scales at only 850kg – a massive 398kg saving over the roadgoing model.
In place of the folding hard-top is a complicated roll cage that’s welded to the bodyshell for extra strength. Getting inside requires the flexibility of a contortionist, though, as you need to fold your body through the criss-crossing metal bars.
The cabin is unrecognisable from standard. Carbon fibre trim replaces the usual fixtures and fittings, while in front of the driver is a large LCD screen that displays vital data such as engine revs and lap times. Even the steering wheel is covered in switches, plus it gets two carbon fibre paddles that control the pneumatically operated Quaife six-speed box.
Hit the starter button and the heavily modified MX-5 motor erupts noisily into life. Without air-con, the temperature in the cabin soon becomes unbearably hot – meaning you’ll want to get moving as soon as possible.
To select first gear, you need to hold down the clutch and press the yellow ‘neutral’ button on the wheel, before pulling the right-hand shift paddle. There’s a loud clunk from the transmission as the cogs engage. You’ll need plenty of revs to get off the line, but once moving there’s no need to use the clutch on the semi-auto gearbox.
As you’d expect, acceleration from the 275bhp powerplant is electrifying. A row of dash-top LEDs reminds you to shift up, while an automatic throttle blip helps smooth downchanges.
The race-tuned engine delivers a roaring soundtrack, but it’s the deafening whine from the transmission that dominates.
As with the standard car, the handling impresses most. The slick racing tyres and modified suspension mean the GT delivers breathtaking grip in corners – you will run out of bravery before the Mazda loses its hold on the tarmac! Adding to the impressive dynamic package are the huge AP racing brakes. There’s no ABS, or servo assistance, either – which means the pedal needs a hefty shove. But the all-disc set-up provides eye-popping stopping power.
After only a couple of laps of a circuit, the effort of driving the car even moderately quickly will have you sweating and exhausted. But every second behind the wheel is a thrill, and the GT really maximises the potential of the raw MX-5 road car.
Chart position: 2WHY: Look past familiar MX-5 body and you’ll find a bespoke racer, with a tuned engine, carbon panels, special suspension and a semi-auto gearbox