Following the introduction of Mazda’s Women in Motorsports Initiative at the 2020 MX-5 Cup shootout, the Japanese auto brand has committed to keeping the program in place for the foreseeable future.
Mazda has long recognized the ongoing need for programs that support female drivers. The concept of using the MX-5 Cup shootout to support emerging women in the sport was an ideal way for Mazda to contribute to this directive.
“It’s fantastic to see the motorsports industry creating more and more opportunities for women to advance their racing careers,” said Mazda North American Operations Motorsports Program Manager Jonathan Applegate. “With the MX-5 Cup shootout, we saw the perfect method to contribute to the movement with a scholarship recognizing the top female participant. I’m happy to say that Mazda has committed to continuing this program moving forward.”
The Women in Motorsports Initiative is the newest chapter in the long-running story of support that Mazda has generated to help deserving talent connect with opportunity in motorsport.
The Mazda MX-5 Cup shootout was created in 2008 to give grassroots Mazda drivers the opportunity to earn a scholarship for a full-season of MX-5 Cup competition. Last year, Mazda added a $75,000 scholarship for an outstanding female driver that takes part in the shootout. Last year’s winner was Savanna Little, who currently drives the No. 63 Hixon Motor Sports car.
“Earning the scholarship from Mazda Motorsports was the kick start I’ve been needing for years to begin my career in professional sports car racing,” Little said. “Many aspiring pros know that it’s a game of hundreds of ‘noes’ trying to break into pro racing without being self-funded or coming from a racing family. Sometimes all it takes is one ‘yes’, or a few people believing in you.
“There is no other manufacturer supporting club racing in the way Mazda does, and I believe whole heartedly you have to support the brands and organizations that support your passions,” added Little, who hails from Austin, Texas. “So, I put my faith in the Mazda grassroots racing ladder system to help me develop the fundamental skills (not only on track, but off track as well) to one day be able to sustain a career in professional racing. I am still on cloud nine every time I step behind the wheel of my ND2 Global MX-5 Cup Car and I am looking forward to every challenge and opportunity to develop myself further this season.”
Mazda’s Women in Motorsports Initiative is about more than just funding, it is equally important to provide recipients with resources to improve their driving, data analysis and media presence. The Mazda family is rich with experienced coaches and mentors to prepare drivers for professional racing.
“In my opinion, support in the grassroots to the semi-professional racing is vital for women to get to the next level,” said Hixon Motor Sports Team Manager Shea Holbrook. “Mazda remains focused on fostering development, working with the driver, team, even providing mentorship, coaching and media. There’s been wonderful opportunities for women in racing but, the disconnect has also been, it stops where it started. Mazda furthering their support shows the commitment they have not just to women but to grow the industry.”
In the 2021 MX-5 Cup season opener at Daytona, Hixon Motor Sports fielded four female drivers and Mazda hopes to see this trend continue. Next on the schedule is Sebring International Raceway March 17 – 19.