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Miata, Miata, Miata.

Mazda Miata. Everyone's favorite car not to start with. And what a shame. Reading comments on other sites, it appears people think this is a car to avoid, and only use where needed. There are only two races where you are restricted to the Miata, and that's the Miata one-make race and the Roadster 4 hour Endurance race.

But, this car is good for so much more. I have 4 of these in my garage; highly tuned, somewhat tuned and stock. I'm going to try to make the case for the Miata as a starter car. Basically, if the car can win a number of races without having to resort to repeating events over and over to get money, it could be considered a decent starter car. The races in question for this car will be:

Let's get started. Brand new game, brand new Cr. 10,000. There's only one place to find a cheap old Miata, and that's the Used Showroom. I got lucky right away, and found a "Sunburst Yellow" MX-5 Miata J-Limited II (J, NA) '93 for Cr. 7,104 and just short of 50,000 miles. Perfect! That gives us a nice car to start with, and some leftover money to get going. First order of business is an oil change. For Cr. 50, that will get us some of that horsepower back. Next, I'll add a racing chip for some extra power and a stage one weight reduction to trim some of the excess weight of the car. Since this improves the weight to power ratio, at Cr. 1,000, it's a cheap way of getting more power for less and it improves overall handling as well. This leaves us with Cr. 846 in the bank, so it's time to do some racing.

First stop, Sunday Cup. This is normally the easiest place to start. Before you start racing, click on that red toolbox, and locate the "Driving Aids" setting. Change all three settings to zero. The competition isn't too hard, so you should be able to win fairly easily here even with a minimum of upgrades and tunings. It pays a measly Cr. 600 for each win, but with 5 races, that's 3,000 Credits plus a prize car. The AutoBianchi that you get from winning all five races are useless. Some say it can be used in the Lightweight cup, but I think it's a money sinkhole. You're better off selling it for the Cr. 8,378 and use that to fix up your Miata. We can worry about the Lightweight cup later... Now, with our newly found fortune, our bank account is up to Cr. 12,224. Let's spend it all at once! We're going to get a wing (Cr. 1,200), Sports Suspension (Cr. 3,000), Semi-Racing Exhaust (Cr. 2,800), Carbon Driveshaft (Cr. 2,500) and finally, a semi-racing flywheel (Cr. 500). What? No power upgrades you say? We don't need power upgrades yet. The extra 6 horses we got from the Exhaust upgrade doesn't really count for much. So, why these upgrades?

The wing serves two purposes. It creates downforce which improves traction. It can also be used to adjust oversteer/understeer. Since we can't afford the softer sports tires for improved traction, we'll use the wing instead. The Miata as it is with these upgrades doesn't need any oversteer/understeer correction, so just add about 25% downforce on both front and back. That should be about a 7. Adjust according to your driving style.

The sports suspension is just a stiffer suspension. It greatly improves the handling of the car. It doesn't nose-dive as much when you hit the brakes, it doesn't lean over as much during turns, and it basically keeps all 4 wheels on the ground all the time. You can also lower the ride-height, which in general improves performance as well. I lowered mine to 120mm, which leaves some room in case I drive over some of the rumble-strips (and I will).

The exhaust upgrade is just a minor power boost. It gives more of a boost than the sports version, and it's affordable. Spending the extra money for the racing exhaust upgrade at this point may be too much money for very little extra power.

The carbon driveshaft and the lightweight flywheel helps improving acceleration. Since less torque is lost on spinning the lighter driveshaft, more torque is available for the wheels. A little test on the Las Vegas drag strip showed a 1/2 second improvement over the quarter-mile. That might not sound like much, but it's an edge.

Don't forget to get your licenses! You'll need them!

Next stop is the Japanese Compact Cup. The Miata is small enough to qualify, and this series race really pays off! With Cr. 2,000 per win, 5 races and a Cr. 15,000 bonus for winning the series, this will net you Cr. 25,000 for a fairly easy win. The van you win is utterly useless. You can sell it for less that Cr. 2,000 but what's the point ...

With over Cr. 27,000 in the bank, it's time to do some more shopping, and this time we're getting the good stuff. First, we're getting the Fully Customized transmission (Cr. 10,000), then the Stage 2 Turbo (Cr. 12,500) and the Twin Plate Clutch. I also spent Cr. 10 on two practice trips to get the gear ratios right. That leaves me with Cr. 2,214.

This transmission will allow us to change the gear ratios. With this, we can get better acceleration, tweak the length of each individual gear and this is an absolute necessity for this car to win. The quick and easy way to change gear ratios are to use the "Auto" setting. A lower value gives better acceleration but lower top speed, and a higher value gives better top speed but poor acceleration. The trick is to find the sweet spot; where you have the best acceleration but don't redline on the last gear. The "auto" setting was at 7 when I went in to take a look. After a trip on the Test Course and Mid-Field Raceway, I moved it down to 6. The improved acceleration made up for the loss of top speed. I wasn't maxing out the RPMs in 5th gear at the end of the long stretch on Mid-Field, and that's a good sign.

The Stage 2 turbo is pure power; this tiny car now has 247 horses, enough to win most of the events this car can be used in. With the added power, the car should be more competitive for the coming races. There's really no getting around adding power. I chose the turbo upgrade because it gives a bigger boost per credit than the NA upgrade does. However, we'll get the NA upgrade later to compete in the NA Sports race...

The clutch should really have been added along with the flywheel, but I didn't have the money. Why the twin plate and not triple plate? Well, I'm cheap. The difference between the two in such a low-powered vehicle doesn't justify the extra money. The twin-plate is a good upgrade, and that's what we're looking for. Either way, the improved clutch helps prevent power loss during shifting, and since we're running on a close transmission, there will be quite a bit of shifting...

The next race is the FR Challenge. With the extra performance of this Miata, this isn't going to be too difficult either. Due to the extra power, I adjusted the rear downforce up to 50%. This adds quite a bit of traction on the rear tires, which again prevents spin outs. Giving it too much gas when exiting turns could easily make the tires just spin, and with the sideways momentum, you'll quickly find yourself facing the wrong way. Winning the FR Challenge races nets you Cr. 6,000 and a 1967 Nissan Skyline. For the money we just made, we'll get the Sports Soft tires. That'll cost us Cr. 5,600, leaving us with just over Cr. 4,100.

And right now, we're not looking to upgrade any more. We'll eventually need the racing brakes, better suspension and probably the brake controller, but things are getting expensive, so we'll need to win some races before we can afford more upgrades.

After having gotten the new tires on the car, it's time to head for the Miata one-make race. Head to the Mazda dealer, and click on "One Make Race", then pick the 2nd race. This is a 5 race series, it pays Cr. 2,000 for each win and Cr. 15,000 for the championship. There should be no problem winning this series with our upgraded Miata.

We can also do the Spider & Roadster race and expect to win that. There's only three single races, and it should be fairly easy to win these as well. This will get us 3 x Cr. 3,000 and a 2002 Chrysler Prowler. (Note that this is a "special car", and it can't be used in races).

Quickly moving on, we got the Japanese 90's Challenge. It's 5 single races, and even if the competition is a little tougher, the Miata should make short order of all these races as well. The closest call was the Twin Ring Motegi race, where I beat the next car by 3 seconds. But three seconds at 100MPH is a fairly convincing win. Winning all 5 races will give you Cr. 15,000 and a very nice Nismo 400R. This is essentially a 4WD Nissan Skyline, and you can use this later for the 4WD race and the Nissan Skyline One-Make race.

After having put some miles on the car, it's time for another oil change. I noticed that the HP dropped down a little, so Cr. 50 will get it back. Now it's also time to get the IA License required for the World Compact Cup.

After getting the IA License, it's time for the World Compact Cup race. This is a championship race, and you'll get Cr. 7,500 for each win, plus Cr. 30,000 for the championship and a 1968 Honda S800 RSC Race car to boot. These races are a little more difficult that the previous races, but the Miata should be able to secure a win in each race. The toughest competition comes from the Renault Clio, which doesn't want to let go...

With all that cash, we can finally add the finishing touches on our Miata. The fully customizable suspension is Cr. 15,000, the stage 3 NA tuning is a whooping Cr. 65,000, racing brakes will cost us Cr. 4,500 and a stage 2 weight reduction is another Cr. 5,000. That's almost Cr. 90,000 in upgrades, and we're still stuck at 246 horses!

So, why spend Cr. 65,000 on the upgrade if there's no more power? Well, there is more power. A turbo adds most of the power in the higher RPM band, which means you won't have as much power when the RPMs falls below a certain number. To make up for this, you'll need to shift more often, and that causes powerloss too. With an NA upgrade, you get power all around. With this extra boost in power in the lower RPMs, you'll get a quicker increase in the RPMs, and unless you are careful, your wheels will just spin. To compensate for this, you need to be careful with how much throttle you are giving, especially in 1st gear when starting from a stand-still. Try giving only 70%-75% throttle once the race starts, and you should be able to convert more of the power to pure acceleration and less power to just burning rubber. Also, this shift of power may cause some understeer in the car, at least with the 25/50 setting we got on the downforce at this point. Set it to 50/50, and that should correct the understeer tendency.

Before you start racing again, you need to change the settings on the new suspension. If nothing else, at least lower the ride height. I tend to lower it to about 5-6 mms from the lowest setting. That seems to keep me of the ground in most cases.

Next race: Clubman Cup. This is one of the easier Pro races, but still not all that easy. If you "peel out" at the start, you may lose a lot of time, which it may be hard to catch up later. Be careful in the curves, as the car will handle differently with the new suspension, brakes and the wider powerband. The car will accelerate more at lower RPMs than it did before, so if you press too hard, you'll find yourself in the dirt...

Now for some fun. What can be more fun that driving on a wet racetrack? Well, I can think of a few things, but still, this will be fun. Go the the Special Condition hall, and locate the Easy Tsukuba wet race. Before starting the race, we'll make some changes to the car. Click on the Red Toolbox to change your settings, then select either "Set B" or "Set C" to avoid messing up your existing settings. First, add 100% dowforce both on the front and back. Second, equip the Fully Customize Transmission, and change the gear ratios. Choose "13" for auto setting; this will prevent overpowering the tires so you won't just be sitting there spinning... Also make sure you put all the other equipment back on, including the Stage 3 NA Tuning, the flywheel, everything. Now it's time to race on a wet track. This is going to be slippery, so keep a few things in mind: If your wheels lock up, you'll be hydroplaning. As fun as that can be, you don't have much stopping or steering power. Braking takes longer, and if you apply too much power in a turn, your wheels will lose what little grip they have, and you'll be facing the wrong way. If you don't win this race the first time, try again. After a couple of laps on the wet surface, you should know better how to drive on this surface, and perhaps win the second time around.

Continuing with the Rally, move on to the Capri Rally. This is the easiest of the Rallies, and if you don't win it, it's not the cars' fault. There's some room for passing in this rally, which makes it easier than the Umbria Rally, just try not to rear-end the other car or ram into a wall. Those 5-second penalties could cost you the win.

The Umbria Rally is considerably harder. Not because of the cars involved, but because so much of it takes place on narrow, winding streets which makes passing almost impossible. There's only a few places where you can pass: The 180 turns on either end, the long stretch at the bottom. There's some room around the start/finish line as well, but you need to be really close to make that happen. Both of the Umbria rallies (easy) are within reach in our current Miata.

You can also use these new settings in the Clubman Cup. The added downforce will slow you down a little bit, and the new gear ratios will kill your acceleration. But, if I can win the Clubman cup races with those settings, so can you. If that is too sluggish for you, consider changing the gear ratio to half-way between where you are and where you were, which should be around 9. Try it out, and see how that works.

I know I have won the Race of NA Sports with a Miata before, but that was a brand new '04 Miata, which packs a few extra horses, and it doesn't suffer from any rigidity issues that our '93 Miata may have due to 50,000 racing miles on it. Rigidity can be fixed, but it's very expensive (Cr. 50,000), so it's not worth it for this car. I'm not saying that it will be impossible to be the NA Sports race, but we may have to get the Limited Slip equipped as well before we can be serious contenders in that race.

Even if you might not win the race of NA Sports with this car, you should at this point have enough money (by my calculation, over Cr. 70,000) to either buy another car, or use of the the car you have won. The Nismo 400R will certainly take care of the 4WD drive race, the Nissan Skyline One-make race, and pretty much any other race it can compete it. The Pontiac Sunfire you get from one of the license test will take care of the FF Challenge, and with some tuning, it can also be used in the American Hall with at least some success.

Hopefully, I have convinced someone that the Miata is a viable choice in Gran Turismo 4. There's nothing preventing you from using this car in other races as well, but the competition in the remaining races are going to be hard with this car.

If you are looking for more fun, purchase a Suzuki Cappuccino and get a racing chip for it. That should be enough to win the Lightweight cup. Then take it to the Suzuki dealer, and enter the Suzuki K Cup. You should be able to win this as well, if not, try spending Cr. 1,000 on a weight reduction, or a little more for a power upgrade. Once you win the K-Cup, you get a Suzuki Concept car that can compete in the ... you guessed it, the Suzuki Concept Car race. You'll have to spend some money on this one, but at the end, you'll get the tiny Suzuki GSX-R/4. It's small, but it packs a punch, sticks to the road and turns like it's on rails.

1999 - 2005 Lars M. Hansen