This is the mecca of events for Miata enthusiasts in North America. Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – an event that has been happening in some way or another at the same race track since the 1st anniversary of the original Miata back in the early 90’s.
Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 2014 marked the biggest iteration of the event with 1,841 Miata registered for the event. As the event progressed more Miata enthusiasts continued arriving – even many who hadn’t even registered. By Saturday, a new record was set with 1,934 Miatas in attendance. Pretty much, the largest Miata meet in history.
Let’s start with a 50 photo gallery of the event. Take your time. Lots of great pics there. Then continue on after the gallery for more about the event and the rest of the photos.
Miatas at Mazda Raceway 2014 photo gallery
For the first gathering on Friday, where aerial photography of the gathering was to be taken, not everyone registered made it. That said, it’s estimated that at least 1,200 of those registered made it to the world record miata gathering attempt on Friday. One heck of a Miata meet this.
Things like jobs got in the way for some. Others might have underestimated the time to travel to Monterey. I know we did. I calculated 7 hours from Northern San Diego, but it took us a little over 8 hours after it was all said and done.
Yet, some eek’ed in terror when they arrived at Wolf Hill, the place were the first gathering would take place, and realized it was a huge dirt lot. If you spent the best part of your week performing a professional car detailing job on your Miata before the event, you either bit the bullet or you left. Some actually did leave. I decided not to be “that guy” so I stayed. Luckily the RallyWays Miata was not completely clean when we got there. That said, I’ll be spending 28 hours cleaning the engine alone now.
For next year, I really hope all the gatherings happen in the paddock area. Right, this is a track-oriented event, but many attendees are the car-show-type. They like a clean car.
This event usually takes place sometime in April. However, due to the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata ND unveiling, the event was pushed to September 5-7, 2014 in order to incorporate the gathering with the unveiling of the new Miata. I’m no expert on the area’s weather, but it seems late summer reduces the chances of rain quite a bit when compared to late spring. There was no hint of rain all weekend long.
Throughout the three days the even took place, Miatas pretty much invaded Monterey California. Drive around town in Monterey, Carmel or Salinas and you were bound to spot a Miata at least every 5 minutes. Miatas lined the parking lots of every hotel in the region as well.
The event had people representing the USA, Canada, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Puerto Rico and many more.
Some of the highlights of the event included:
Miata gathering world record attempt
World record attempt of the most Miatas gathered together at one location. The first attempt is the aforementioned Miata gathering at Wolf Hill on Friday. This hill is an overflow parking section of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. This is where at least 1,600 or more Miatas showed up. The organizers planned out a treat and careful parking of all the cars made it so the cars spelled “MX5 25” when viewed from the sky. This for the MX5 Miata’s 25 Year Anniversary. A chopper was sent to photograph from the sky. This is where we would’ve loved to have the RallyWays Tricopter handy. Too bad it was at home in San Diego. That said, I would’ve probably not been allowed to fly it there.
ND Miata presented to the attendees
Opening day for Miatas at Mazda Raceway 2014 also included the showing of the ND Miata to the event attendees. It wasn’t just a showing thought. The ND Miata was to arrive driving under its own power – a perfectly good working and driving model.
This part of the event ended up shorter than I expected, but I was still able to get some good shots. I was disappointed when the ND left thinking that was all we’d get to see of the new MX-5. Luckily, a non-running model was displayed all weekend in the Mazda pavilion in what was officially called the Fan Zone.
The start of the event was kind of rocky, or dusty rather… but getting to see the ND Miata in person and driving around made the effort totally worth it.
Mazda Fan Zone
Talking about the Fan Zone… The giant Mazda pavilion near the paddock parking was excellent. That place really showed Mazda’s serious dedication to the event. Mazda had some very unique Miata models on display there. Some of these models were Miatas that I had only previous heard about or read about in Miata enthusiast books.
Cars like the rare Fastback Coupe NA Miata and the 1999 500,000th Miata were present. Other gems were some very early production NAs that Mazda has saved for posterity, the Cosworth supercharged Super 20 MX-5 and the MX-5 Spyder. Last but not least, a non-running model of the new 2016 MX-5 was on display the whole weekend.
The Mazda Fan Zone pavilion also served as a venue for speakers, Q & A and conferences. No matter how hard the crowd tried to trick the speakers into revealing uber-classified information about the ND, these professionals batted every attempt perfectly.
Good people and good friends
The Miata community is very eclectic… and very interesting. Being such a big community, you meet some awesome people. I was able to meet many people in person that I only knew online before. Some from the Miata forums, others RallyWays subscribers, some friends, people that recognized the RallyWays Miata, etc, etc.
It was awesome to see such a gathering of friends, many who share the same interests. Of course, in such a big community there are bound to be a few sour grapes. RallyWays is quite the professional car enthusiast brand, but we’re not some cookie-cutter polished corporate brand. Therefore I have no problem calling out a few of the ogres trolling around the event. You know who you are. If you are rude, full of yourself and miserable, then yes, I’m probably talking about you.
Overall however, the crowd as fantastic. Big props to all the volunteers and staff.
Big shoutout to Rick Weldon for somehow being able to orchestrate such a massive event. Job well done sir.
Miata Hot Laps
Of course, this is the core of Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Otherwise, the gathering could be held at a parking lot in LA and be called Miatas at the Mall Parking Lot. This is arguably the best part of the event. Rick Weldon, the organizer, is a driver. Rick and crew did a great job organizing every aspect of the event. However, it’s obvious the track experience shines here. It was only logical the most organized aspect of Miatas at MRLS were the hot laps.
It was pretty exciting watching the teams from Goodwin Racing, Flyin’ Miata, Blackbird Fabworx, Moss Miata, Chikara, 949 Racing and others do their thing. Same goes for all the participants of the track day.
Yet more Miatas at Mazda Raceway photos
No event is perfect. The bigger the event and the more successful it is, the more the cons are going to be evident. It’s my responsibility to report on what I feel could have been done better so that future Miatas at MRLS events can be improved. Note that this particular Miatas at Mazda Raceway is bigger than it usually is given the ND Miata unveiling, the world record Miata meet and the time change from late spring to late fall.
First of all, I admit the dirt lot at Wolf Hill seemed like the only ideal place to gather a thousand and a half Miatas for an aerial photo. Given the busy schedule, Friday mid-day was likely the only time most attendees could’ve been assembled at once without being distracted by 100 other activities.
That said, it sucks showing to a car event on the first day and getting completely covered in dirt. However, looking past that, most people seemed to have dealt with the situation just fine.
Paddock parking for all Miatas – or at least better access to parking passes. Again, I ended up stuck in the dirt up on a steep hill on Saturday. Saturday was the busiest day of the event. If you counted the number Miatas sent to park over at the dirt outside you would have realized there was actually space for them in the paddock parking area – even with the high attendance.
Regardless, if Miatas were still going to be sent out because of not having parking passes, access to parking passes should have been better. From what I could gather, passes were only given out to group leaders for clubs. But what about those Miata drivers not in a Miata club? I for one am so busy that I barely have time for my local club (non-Miata) San Diego Car Enthusiasts, let alone join a Miata club.
For that reason, no matter who I asked, I could not seem to be able to get a hold of a pass to get my car in. Either they didn’t have any left, or they were guarding the passes like currency. It wasn’t until I brought it up during a conversation with my friend Lin from Kinod that I managed to get a pass for Sunday. Thank you Lin. You’re awesome… and your car is badass.
On Sunday, Miatas without a pass were still being sent out to park outside in the dirt. For heaven’s sake! Everyone knows Sunday would be a slower day with PLENTY of parking for all Miatas inside. I spoke with some people who had the hardest time trying to talk the bouncers into letting their cars in on Sunday, when really, as long as you signed your waivers and registered you should’ve simply be let in.
Better support for media. I attended Miatas at Mazda Raceway 2014 because of my love for Miatas but also to create coverage of the event and publish it via RallyWays. However, given the big boys from Motor Trend and Car & Driver had already been fed a few days before for the ND Miata unveiling, there was no real support for other media during MRLS during the actual event. This, even after writing to inquire about media passes.
That’s fine, there were plenty of opportunities for material and good photos. However, access to key track photography areas, such as the window in the fence by the souvenir shop were simply locked and closed. True, the main event photographer, Got Blue Milk was allowed to come in and shoot the corkscrew. That’s great. We don’t want anyone stepping on their toes. But what about media that’s not looking to sell photos like they are but rather to create coverage for the event?
Minor gripes overall really. The event was amazing and the experience great. I met up with many people and even met many new ones.
The overall consensus seems to be that most attendees were extremely happy and had a blast. There might be a few here and there that might not be happy and their complaints might be bigger than the few I have above. But you can’t really please everyone I guess.
Back to the good stuff
The track guys certainly seem happy. The parade laps and the hot laps riding shotgun I had with Brian Goodwin really showed how amazing this track is. It has also made me increasingly interested in returning to a future Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Not just to bring home material to publish on RallyWays, but to drive in the hot laps.
Until next year.
Wait! There’s more. The title says 101 photos. So I have to find a way to share them all. I’ll post more below and comment on them in narrating fashion. I shot over 1,200 images of which 800 or so are good. But I pulled exactly 101 of the best ones for this story. Here we go…
Rick Weldon, the organizer of Miatas at Mazda Raceway 2014 did a heck of a job organizing this event. Even more, he would remain cool even when situations didn’t go quite right. I know. I was watching.
It’s amazing to see what a good driver can do with street legal car. This is Brian Goodwin returning from one of his many hot laps. It must be nice to be entered for both group A and group B track hot laps. That’s more Laguna Seca practice time than you get playing Gran Turismo.
Another Saturday afternoon highlight. Those of you on Miata.net should know this car very well. It’s a Cosworth supercharged first year NC. Built by Cyberbug and now owned by Otto W, this is one of the most unique Miatas in the world. Fast too. It’s also one of the few, if not the only power-retractable hard top MX-5 with a track-legal roll bar.
Awesome to see the action from the paddock garages right next to the pits. Saturday was a particularly busy day.
Wrapping up the day on Saturday. I absolutely love shooting in late afternoon light. Photos come out amazing and rather effortlessly. Here is the RallyWays Miata wrapping up the day on Saturday as we head down to the main road from the top of Laguna Seca.
We took the scenic Big Sur Drive back to San Diego. This is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. Big thanks to our friends from MOMSQUAD (Miatas of Murrieta) for convincing me into taking this route back. Totally worth it.
You might have spotted the Mazda MX-5 Super 25 in the photos above.
There. That’s probably enough. You should go back and count them all. There really are 101 photos from Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 2014 here.
If you happen to find better coverage of this event elsewhere, please let us know. Challenge accepted?
This post can strike a chord with any car enthusiast – even the non-Miata ones. Everyone loves good track-action. For the true Miata enthusiasts however, we have a dedicated Miata section on RallyWays.