Video: Frenetic Spec Miata Pole Lap at Laguna Seca!

With only 120 horsepower at your disposal, you’ve got to take liberties with a Spec Miata if you’re going to put it at the front of the grid come race day. Matt Cresci, 2016 Mazda Road to 24 Shootout Champion, knows exactly what getting pole position entails.

After braking very late, Cresci carries the brakes well past Turn 2’s first apex. He enjoys the benefits of that short wheelbase as the slight yaw helps the nose gently tuck into the second apex. The slight oversteer can be settled with a dab of throttle, since wheelspin isn’t really an issue for an anemic car like the Spec Miata. Like that, he’s “bent” the car through the middle of the corner to get pointed in the right direction a hair sooner.

Throughout this precise-yet-aggressive lap, Cresci has a real compromise to make: while he occasionally uses an abrupt flick to get the car turned in—most notably at 1:09— he has no torque to help recover from a scruffy mid-corner phase. Therefore, he must use every inch of road from apex to exit, and sometimes a little more to keep the car as straight as possible, which keeps scrub to a minimum and maximizes the Miata’s meager acceleration.

Photo credit: Matt Cresci Racing

Cresci keeps it all fairly smooth, with early turn-ins and a real stab of the throttle as soon as possible to keep momentum up throughout Turns 6, 7, and 8. Down the hill, he experiences the only mistake made throughout the otherwise flawless lap when he garners a little too much oversteer into Turn 10 (1:45), which starts a chain of negative events.

“In this video in particular, I noticed I missed the apex of Turn 10 slightly, which is a very important apex on this track due to the camber. Working backwards, it looks like I turned in a split second too late,” remarks Cresci. Spat slightly off-line, he then has to make a major correction mid-corner to keep the car turned in the right direction. This pinch pushes the car into an abrupt snap (better explained here), and only with quick hands did he keep his car out of the dirt and possibly the wall.

Thankfully, this mistake took place on a downhill section where his lack of power is less of an issue, and he was able to continue his masterclass to snag pole position. It also gave him a chance to improve his race pace. After Cresci reviewed this video prior to his race, he started running through laps in his head. “Before the race, I visualized a slightly earlier turn-in to Turn 10, and tried to eliminate that mistake,” notes the perfectionist.

Keep an eye out for this young man with a bright future ahead of him.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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