First-generation (NA) MX-5s, such as the car I race, do not boast rigidity anywhere close to that of modern roadsters. My car is one of the very early models and as it is over a quarter of a century old metal fatigue could be felt in the cabin.
Short of stripping the car back to bare metal and having it seam-welded (though it was tempting), I had to come up with a solution to add some rigidity to the platform.
Bracing for change
A quick search online revealed that local firm Ultra Racing South Africa had a full set of body braces in stock for an NA MX-5. In fact, Ultra Racing SA stocks bracing products for a wide variety of vehicles available locally.
I gave the owner a shout and managed to convince him to part with them for fitment on Project MX-5. The full kit consists of five pieces: an upper front strut brace, two underbody braces, a rear torsion bar and lastly one to tie together the seatbelt mounting points.
Each part comes with its own nuts and bolts, the braces line up with existing holes in the body and fitment requires no special tools. It seemed easy enough so we tackled the job ourselves.
Easy to fit
MX-5 owner and regular spanner-twirler on Project MX-5, Andre du Plessis (aka the Mad Scientist), was on hand to co-ordinate the fitment along with qualified mechanic, JJ van den Bergh, who forms the other part of the race-day crew.
Without the luxury of using a hoist, the longest part of the process was getting the now-very-low racecar up into the air and onto jack-stands high enough to let us work underneath. With all the parts laid out and tools in hand we started the stopwatch.
All parts lined up with existing holes, as advertised, and fitting the braces took a little over an hour. We had to forego fitting the brace between the seatbelt posts as my car has part of the roll cage welded in that space already.
Hitting the track
A few days after fitment, we hit the track ahead of the last race meeting. The tightened-up front end was immediately evident. The upper and lower braces worked in conjunction to provide better steering precision and a flatter cornering stance.
The mid-underbody brace, I have to admit, probably has some of its effectiveness diluted by the roll cage in my car. The end result, however, was a 0,3 second reduction in lap time, a pretty decent improvement for a relatively small change that was easy to affect.
Worth the effort
If you feel that your car could do with a little more rigidity then Ultra Racing SA is definitely worth a call. Their service was excellent and they were eager to impart technical knowledge.
Ultra Racing can be found on the following platforms:
You can email using this address: [email protected]
As usual, all comments and suggestions are welcome. I look forward to hearing from you. For intermediate updates feel free to follow the Project MX-5 facebook page