Arrive and Thrive

Story on Racer.com and in Print in Sports Car Magazine

Looking to make the leap from weekend warrior to professional racer? The jump may not be as big as you think.

It takes big money and a lot of manpower to fund a competitive entry in most professional racing series. The 2015 SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, however, tends to buck the system and is one of the best bangs for the buck if you're looking to take your racing to the next level.

The 2015 MX-5 Cup series is visiting legendary racing venues during its six-weekend, 12-race season, which supports the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, IndyCar, and the NASCAR XFINITY Series. All great opportunities for aspiring career races, and great memory makers for the casual competitor who wants to try the series on as it visits their home track.

While it's still possible for privateer racers to make it in MX-5 Cup, those with the most experience generally wind up on the top step. Going it alone at the professional level can be an uphill battle, but this series has affordable options. Many of the top teams offer season long arrive and drive packages for those wishing to chase the championship and the lucrative Mazdaspeed Ladder bonus, while other teams offer one-off weekend rentals if they have an open car, allowing potential competitors to sample the series as it visits their favorite track.

"Having come from a husband/wife team, grass-roots effort many years ago, there is a lot to be said for going at it alone," says Ara Malkhassian, owner of 2014 championship winning Alara Racing. "There is certainly a lot of satisfaction and pride in doing your own work. On the other hand, it is very time consuming to perform all the different aspects of preparation at a pro racing event, and there are elements that simply cannot exist in that environment."

The logistics of a professional racing weekend differ from typical club level weekends, and it can be exhausting for a small team. "The level of preparation on a pro team is completely different," Malkhassian explains. "We have dedicated resources for car maintenance, chassis setup and engineering, driver coaching and data management, fuel management, tire management, etc. It's a level of professionalism that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

"Being able to let the driver focus on driving without distractions is a huge plus. That, combined with having several teammates to work with towards improving lines, braking points, comparing setup changes with, etc., all add up to create a complete experience that gives our clients their best opportunity to achieve their racing goals."

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