2013 Mazda Adventure Rally

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Date Posted: June 16, 2013
By Zack Spencer

Media teams from across canada compete in the very first Mazda Adventure Rally for a $10,000 grand prize to be awarded to the charity of their choice.

The number “1” is an important number in any auto related sporting event. The car with this number on the side is the champion from the previous season or individual event. It was with pride that Alexandra Straub and I arrived at the Chattanooga TN airport to see our shinny new Mazda MX-5 proudly sporting a big “1” on the side; we’re returning champions set to defend our previous years victory, or so we hoped.

The three day driving challenge through the Blue Ridge, Unico and Smokey Mountain ranges of Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina was pure driving bliss, thanks to perfect roads that dive back and forth across the mountain ridges or valley floors. One section of road is the famous “Tail of the Dragon” section of highway 129 just inside the South Caroline border. With 318 curves over 18km, this bendy bit of road is a huge draw for car and motorcyclist wanting to challenge mind and machine.

Speaking of mind and machine, our three-day adventure took us from our home base at the Brasstown Valley Resort, in Georgia, out on a surprise adventure each day, complete with photo challenges and specific instructions.

On last years event I gave Alexandra the name “Type A” for here steely determination and take-no-prisoners charge to the winner’s podium. This year I updated her name to “Type A Minus”. It might have been the fatigue or three-hour time change but neither of was particularly sharp as last year and the challenges were much trickier. We both missed a few turns on our map and I clipped a cone on the Atlanta Motorsports Park autocross course that was set up to showcase our skills but more importantly the capability of the MX-5

I’ve always been a fan of the MX-5 (Miata) ever since I started reviewing cars over 22 years ago (I know, I’m getting old). The front engine, rear drive layout and Mazda’s relentless attention to the weight and balance makes it a joy to take on a short trip to the store or for ten hours on day two of our challenge. The small, thrifty dimensions matched to a raspy 2.0L 4-cylinder and 6-speed manual makes for a fantastic power-to-weight distribution, meaning the 160hp engine might not sound like much on paper but, in practice, it makes the most of every situation.

Now most MX-5 buyers wouldn’t take their new car blasting down backcountry gravel roads but that’s just what the event organizers had us do on a few occasions. The gravel was flying, the ruts were deep but we kept on at a brisk pace, charging towards the end of that stage. I’m pleased to announce that our little number one came through without a scratch but Alexandra was a good sport letting me thrash around sideways as much as I please. She really is a good teammate.

Wining last year was a lot of fun; the competitors might not have taken the challenges as seriously as Alexandra, okay both of us. But this year every team came prepared, maybe even more determined than us. At the end of the first night we were in second place, a good spot to rally back. By the end of day two we had slipped to fourth, thanks to my encounter with the autocross cone.  At the end of the third day we had missed a few turns and a major clue worth a whopping fifty points. At the end of it all we came away with fifth, out of ten teams, and a few good stories to tell.

There’s always next year and I’m sure we will dig deep and bring our “A” game--hopefully to win again.

One thing is for sure, our little MX-5 never set a wheel wrong, and it was a joy turn after turn. If anything should get an A, it is that compact package of goodness.

One thing is for sure, our little MX-5 never set a wheel wrong
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