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Can Mazda take on Toyota GR and Hyundai N? Local bosses say "sports car thinking is at the heart of Mazda" as the next-generation MX-5 nears

Mazda’s next MX-5 is a point of excitement for local bosses, but Mazda Spirit Racing is up in the air.

It’s been a while since Australian enthusiasts had anything new to get excited about from the Mazda brand, but a couple of glimpses into the near future of Mazda shows the sports car isn’t a thing of the past.

With a new generation of the Mazda MX-5, the sleek Iconic SP concept car, and a performance and motorsport division to take the baton from MazdaSpeed (or MPS) all popping up in the last several months, is Mazda firing up its own rival to the likes of Toyota GR or even Nismo?

If it is, it’s going to be a slow take-off, and it will look decidedly less petrol-powered if early signs of electrification are to be considered.

Speaking to CarsGuide in early February, Mazda Australia Managing Director Vinesh Bhindi said the brand is always trying to find ways to bring ‘fun’ to its local line-up.

“We, as the Australian team, always get excited about anything that Mazda Corporation brings out,” Bhindi said. “And, you know, we’re those individuals that are constantly putting their hand up to say, 'hey, we could do something with this'." 

Specifically, we asked about Mazda Spirit Racing and whether that’s something Mazda Australia has attempted to throw its (considerable, compared to other global Mazda markets) weight around to get involved with.

“The official line from Mazda Corporation is it’s something they’re planning to roll out for Japan only. And that's what they’re sticking to. 

With a new generation of the Mazda MX-5, the sleek Iconic SP concept car, and a performance and motorsport division to take the baton from MazdaSpeed (or MPS).

“They haven't said to us 'stop asking' or 'you can’t ask'. So we'll explore.”

Mazda Spirit Racing was confirmed as a new department focused on motorsport and performance at Auto Salon in January, accompanied by a ‘Mazda Spirit Racing’ modified Mazda 3 and an MX-5.

“But at this stage, it's highly unlikely something [will be] available for Australia. But being motoring fans that we are, it doesn't stop us asking. 

“The worst thing they can say is no.”

Mazda Spirit Racing was confirmed as a new department focused on motorsport and performance at Auto Salon in January, accompanied by a ‘Mazda Spirit Racing’ modified Mazda 3 and an MX-5.

On the MX-5, however, there’s more to get excited about.

Mazda has already confirmed it has a department working on rotary engines as range extenders and “move closer to the dream” of making a car to build on the impressive Iconic SP concept car, to paraphrase Mazda's CEO Katsuhiro Moro.

When asked about the upcoming next-gen MX-5 and whether Mazda Australia had any expectations or plans, Marketing Director Alastair Doak said there’s excitement amongst the brand’s local arm.

“Yes! Yes, absolutely.”

Mazda has already confirmed it has a department working on rotary engines as range extenders.

And a connection to the Iconic SP? It seems like the next MX-5 is going to have a range extender link.

“I think Moro-san, our president, at Auto Salon was talking about that, the fact that [some light electrification] is the plan. 

“And there's the powertrain, the rotary range extender version, which means you can have a smaller battery, still EV, but you also then have the range because you have that as a generator of power. 

“So an evolution of the kind of thinking behind the MX-30 rotary range extender. So yeah, that's very much in the mix and we’re looking forward to it.

With a new MX-5 on the horizon and the local arm apparently hounding headquarters for more.

“I mean, it’s a cracking car.” 

With a new MX-5 on the horizon and the local arm apparently hounding headquarters for more, Mazda Australia might not be ready to claim as much enthusiast focus as Toyota with its GR sub-brand, but those who care about driving certainly haven’t been forgotten.

“I guess the good news is that we've very much flagged that sports car thinking, that sports car architecture, is very much at the heart of Mazda and will remain so into the future which is fantastic.”

Chris Thompson
Journalist
Racing video games, car-spotting on road trips, and helping wash the family VL Calais Turbo as a kid were all early indicators that an interest in cars would stay present in...
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