Motorsport tests the 750MC’s Ma7da Championship

We’ve all been there, eagerly waiting for a set of traffic lights to change. The revs go up, finding the bite point of the clutch before trying to limit wheel spin and not stall, while for a fleeting second or two – in our mind at least – drivers trying to make the jump on our ‘rivals’ .

Those same actions race through this writer’s mind as he sits on the starting grid, waiting for the five red lights to come on and then disappear for my inaugural standing start, after driving alone in the car I’m in for the first time. earlier that morning.

The race in question is the Silverstone round of the 750 Motor Club’s Ma7da Championship, while the car is a proven race-winning machine in the hands of regular driver Ben Powney, with Autosport getting the chance to get behind the wheel as he performed best. husband duties.

Created in 2019, when it started sharing life rosters in addition to the Sport Specials, the category was given championship status in 2021 and is growing steadily. Last season, a total of 28 drivers took part in at least one meeting, with a record 22 for Brands Hatch, while 24 drivers have already participated this year. One round remains, at Snetterton in October.

An offshoot of the popular Locost Championship, the Ma7da cars are primarily an upgrade, with a bigger engine – a 1.8-litre VVT ​​Mazda MX-5 – and Yokohama tires that offer much more grip.

“Taking into account that we’ve also been interrupted by COVID-19, it’s been a solid start,” said Powney, who finished second in Ma7da last year and previously raced Locost and F1000s.

“Every time you roll out a new championship it always takes some time to get going, and this one seems to be taking off and it looks like it’s only going to get better.”

Autosport’s Stefan Mackley got a taste of the 750 Motor Club’s Ma7da Championship

Photo by: Steve Jones

I’m welcomed into Team Sellars Racing by owner Stuart Sellars, a 750MC mainstay who has driven cars in Locost, F1000 and Ma7da, while regular drivers Jonathan Lisseter, Eddie Mawer and Simon Cort are on hand to give me tips and advice. Looking at the onboards from their Friday tests, one thing is surprising: how much the car understeers through fast corners. Not something I expected from a rear wheel drive car that in my mind would at least be about to spin every time the accelerator is pressed…

It’s a busy schedule, with scrutineering, qualifying, a driver’s briefing and two 15 minute races taking place in the space of a day, all while trying to get my head around a brand new car. Aided by at least having driven the Silverstone International layout before, I quickly get used to the low cockpit position and the strange feeling that I have a lot more car in front of me than usual. The car feels generally responsive and manageable, with the rear generally planted as I try to gain confidence through the high-speed corners, Farm’s flat-out left proves most daunting as the car pushes wide.

My 6.62 seconds gap to pole, although quite sobering, is pleasant enough as I spent all 10 laps in the car. The ride is not without incident though, as the engine drops to three cylinders at some point and I find the brake and accelerator pedals are too close together meaning I catch both under braking, which is before the opening race.

My 6.62 seconds backlog to pole, while quite sobering, is pleasant enough as I spent all 10 laps in the car

I’m not the only driver making my championship debut. Stephen Manley is competing in his first ever car race, having purchased a Locost chassis in 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown and spent the past two years converting it to the Ma7da specification.

“Part of the success was just getting it ready for this weekend,” said the AlphaTauri Formula 1 aerodynamic model designer, who has spent 20 years working for teams such as Jaguar, Red Bull, Honda, Lotus and Marussia. “I thought if I don’t do it now” [go racing]I will never do it.”

Like many in the championship, Manley was drawn to his generally affordable budget – close to £10,000 for a new car or less if built himself – the ease with which he can buy spare parts and the relative simplicity of maintaining and driving his own car.

“I liked the idea that the bike is standard and you don’t spend all your time setting it up,” he adds, “and if something goes wrong, you don’t have to spend a lot of money fixing it.”

With just 10 practice laps behind us, our writer took part in two races around the Silverstone International layout

With just 10 practice laps behind us, our writer took part in two races around the Silverstone International layout

Photo by: Steve Jones

Apart from 10 laps at Donington Park for a shakedown, Manley, like me, is in the deep end and quickly becomes my direct rival, albeit at the back of the field. After a decent start at the start, I lose time on the opening lap due to a missed gear on Hangar Straight, but I slowly bring in Manley before running wide at Abbey and losing all rhythm.

Manley suffers a misfire in the closing laps and again I close the gap but any chance of beating him is thwarted due to an ECU problem – related to not moving up from third fast enough – heading into the final lap, which robs me of almost all power. Still, my best lap time has improved by almost 2.1 seconds, leaving me only 4.54 seconds from the fastest lap.

While success on the track may be elusive, without a doubt the most pleasing aspect of the event is the warm welcome to both TSR and the championship as a whole.

“We try to work very hard on the friendliness of the paddock,” said Powney, a drivers’ representative for the championship. “When there’s a new driver I try to get a handful of people to introduce themselves because that first race is terrifying for most people.”

Also very apparent when you look at the results is how competitive the championship is, with series rookie Mawer claiming his first win in race one, and Lisseter cementing his points lead in race two with victory – but only after race-long battles with less than 2 seconds both times the top four.

Because I avoided a collision at the start that required a safety car, my race two is a solitary one, with Manley stopping with a repeat of his misfire, while I’m disappointed after my best lap was back at around 6.33 seconds away.

A check of the car weeks later reveals a lack of power in fourth gear, which explains some of the time loss, but the caliber in the front is undeniable.

More importantly, my experience in the paddock shows an affordable, accessible and friendly championship that is the lifeblood of British motorsport.

“These cars will always generate close races,” adds Powney. “Once I decided that I wanted to continue with Locost, I looked at everything. It was trying to find something that was faster and harder to control, but still had that element of real close racing. I have not seen anything else in club racing as close as the Ma7das.”

A look under the hood of the 1.8-litre VVT ​​Mazda MX-5

A look under the hood of the 1.8-litre VVT ​​Mazda MX-5

Photo by: Steve Jones