Specifics articles are going to be information and tips that relate specifically to a certain chassis, type of car or driving technique. The first one I feel needs addressed is MX5’s/Eunos Roadster/Miata’s.
Note – I’m going to be referring to these cars as MX5’s for this article. This is because I live in the UK and thats what they’re known by. Also top tip, if you’ve got an mx5/Roadster, stop calling it a Miata, its not a Miata. No other car owner calls their cars by something else from another country, you all sound like clowns.
I’ve written this article based on my personal experiences with the assistance of the drivers that can absolutely pedal Mx5’s. So thanks to everyone who’s proof read, debated and raiseditems to be discussed! Means a lot.
Warning, this is a big read (approx 8 minutes) I’ve done my best to keep it as short and accurate as possible but there were so many things that I felt needed covered.
Want to start off with the two biggest pro’s of drifting an Mx5, cost and reliability. They’re seriously cheap to buy, ace on fuel, aftermarket parts are cheap and readily available because of how popular they are. They also are cheap and easy on tyres. I think I’ve done a handful of drift days for under £120 including a 300 mile round trip to Driftland. Unless you’ve bought a nail they’re also reliable as fuck. Mine had only let me down once and that was my own fault due to lack of consideration of brake line length when hitting a bump after I increased the lock. Its also rare to see an mx5 not queuing up again and again at drift days.
Also worth touching on the point of how easy they are to work on, if you have little to no mechanical knowledge they are seriously great at teaching you how to do your own work to the car. Plenty of information on forums on how to do things like replace brakes, gaskets etc.
So getting stuck in to the info I need to get out in this write up; I’ve seen quite a lot of misconceptions where people think that MX5’s don’t have the power to drift efficiently and “can’t do” stuff that other cars can. To some degree they “can’t do” what other cars can is kind of correct. For example, if you’re trying to adjust your line or initiate off handbrake in a N/A Mx5 you’re going to lose a lot of speed because you cant get the power back down to pick your speed back up like a higher powered car would.
On the other hand, an N/A Mx5 will teach you 10x more than most other chassis’ you can drift. Purely because theres not much leeway for errors and this teaches you to be consistent and learn to take better lines etc. At a recent event I was following a mate in an mx5 and I was a bit shy thinking it was going to be slower than my SR20 RS13. I was wrong, Will managed to keep the pace up from just initiating slightly later and keeping it flat out. Later in the event I realised that almost all of the N/A Mx5’s at the event were piloting like fuck keeping up with Nissans over twice the power!
So what baffles me is how people come up with the conception that mx5’s are less capable to drift than other chassis? The only conclusion I’ve had to this is that people are too impatient with them or trying to just do power over/handbrake entries as well as not pushing the car to its limits OR listening to people on the internet who say you have to have 200bhp+ to drift which is absolute bullshit. I’ve yet to see someone drive really well in a turbo Mx5 that didn’t learn in something else or keep it low power to start with. I’ve also heard some turbo mx5 drivers wish they never turbo’ed it as it impeded their progression. Then on the other hand you got folk who absolutely send it in a turbo mx5, from spending time honing skills in it before chucking the turbo onto it.
Turbo’s drastically change the way mx5’s drive, in my opinion you should already know what you’re doing and are really proficient with drifting before bolting one on.
This article focuses specifically on N/A driving for the majority. If you’ve turbo’ed your Mx5 you should know what you’re doing imo (but some stuff will cross over.)
I’m not sure who told me that Mx5’s have to be driven flat out but its true. When I was attempting the Driftland full outer corner for the first time on my 2nd drift day, I was driving what I thought was flat out (limiter in 2nd) then trying to do the whole corner. It was only after going as fast as I could not drifting the corner I realised I could get up into third. Then as soon as I chucked it with a kick in third I almost got the whole corner first try til I spun on the kerb at the end.
So this kind of cements the first point that every mx5 owner needs to understand. You need to be driving on the absolute limit. Go as fast as you feel comfortable with, then push yourself a little bit faster. Scare yourself, It’ll be a lot more fun and you’ll gradually get faster and faster and your confidence in the car will build.
If you watch mx5’s at drift days you’ll often see loads of Manji’s. Are manji’s fun? Fuck aye. Although they will slow you down. Obviously this is all about having fun at the end of the day but I’d recommend to anyone to do a few runs manji-less. My thoughts behind this is you don’t see Corolla’s and mx5’s manji’ing about in Japan and they straighten up and pick up more speed, then chuck it in hard again. I don’t know, this is just something to consider/think about if you spend the day manji’ing a track, you might end up having more fun not manji’ing and sending it from the straight.
Handbrake usage in an MX5, leave it alone. Serious. This isn’t one of the generic “Omg handbrakes are so uncool” internet comments that are popular just now. Theres genuinely very little times when you should be using a handbrake in a stock powered mx5. I personally never used it once apart from taking the piss dragging arse in the wet, but some people I know who have stuck with mx5’s longer than me and have learned to use the handbrake to scrub speed (when you don’t need to put power back down/speed up), but now most have transitioned into left foot braking/footbrake technique, so its more what works for you in that situation.
Another thing thats worth pointing out at this stage is car setup. The more simple your car is the more you can fine tune your skills. Every mx5 driver I know that is really consistent and fun to watch has very little modifications. 1.6 owners normally do the timing mod with a timing gun (Google it) to give them a bit more pep in the engines but apart from that theres not a huge difference between the 1.8 and 1.6 for drifting.
Diff, if you’ve got a Torsen, drive it and see how you get on with it, if its a Viscous or open diff, save yourself the hassle and weld it as soon as you can. I personally preferred a welded diff over my Torsen and some people are the opposite but thats the whole thing about personal preference… No-one can tell you what to like, no matter what SwaggyDave1995 says on the internet. – Also to note daily driving with a welded diff is absolutely fine as long as your not a terrible/careless driver.
When drifting an mx5 you should keep an eye on the bushes in the rear diff. I was going to polybush the diff but in the end I didn’t bother and ran the old OEM mounts which were fine for about 2 weeks… But I have to say loads of people have no issues at all with the OEM mounts, a welded diff and/or drifting. I’d suggest checking them if you start getting axle tramp or knocking from the rear. If you get these issues then Superpro do some void-fillers for mx5’s that you can remove the lower caps, fit the lower section, then drop the diff a little bit, cut a slit in the upper void filler and then slip in.
Steering setup I’ve yet to speak to someone who drives well who doesn’t say to at least do a handful of drift days with no lock mods. Once you’re consistent and not spinning a cunt then go to rack spacers and then finally if you feel you still want more lock go up to cut knuckles. Cut knuckles transform the car with the shorter throw/faster steering. I see too many people throw cut knuckles on too early for the additional lock and then they are actually slowing their progression by “saving” themselves with lock and slowing too much, when they should be learning to control it better. You should be going up lock mods in stages, this will let you control your angle loads better. I noticed when I put on rack spacers i was able to push out a bit wider than usual, and realised that I could control my angle at this point in learning.
Without plugging too much, theres a well known company in the UK that do fantastic cut knuckles (with supporting mods as a package also) for when you’re ready to move up to knuckles.
PAS/Non-PAS/Depowered racks. This is all personal preference. Some people swear by PAS, others by a depowered rack. My mx5 came with a manual rack, which got binned because you need to make custom rack spacers as the tie rod inners are different. Depowered rack you really need to do it properly like the flyin miata guide. I found that when I drove a mates car with cut knuckles and a bodged de-powered rack it felt like hell. If you have PAS on your car, keep it. If the PAS fucks up on your car, loop the lines and see if you like it. If you do, do the full mod. If you don’t, fix it. Don’t fix what aint broke.
Bucket seat is an absolute must. No a “foamectomy” or whatever it is called will do, you need a bucket for track. For fitting a bucket seat I’d recommend just taking out the spot welds on the rear seat mount “humps” and get two spreader plates welded in and bolt a side mount rail to this. I tried to use those JB mounts but couldn’t get my head low enough, and bolting to the standard sliding rails has way too flex. If you get a Bride lowmax then these do go low enough with the JB mounts, but don’t buy replicas. Its a piece of safety equipment thats FIA approved for a reason. I’ve seen people over 6ft fit in these cars comfortably with the proper seat position and snap off wheel.
Speaking of safety. If you’re fitting harnesses, please for the love of fuck make sure you have a cage or the very least a roll bar. Fitting harnesses without a rollover structure is extremely dangerous. If you are strapped upright and the car flips, theres no cage your body doesn’t move…. Don’t say “But I won’t flip an mx5”, I’ve seen it happen more often than you’d think and the people are still alive from having a 3 point belt or a cage.
Suspension on an mx5, a lot of people use TA Technix and various other cheap shit and it works fine for them. Remove the bump stops to stop the car from riding on them constantly if you are low and this will improve the ride, but will probably wreck them if the shock is bottoming out. but do you care about £100 coilovers? Exactly. Ideally you want to be able to pick up some fully adjustable coilovers such as HSD’s. This means you can play with the dampening and run them firm in the rear which is a go-to having speaking to people with adjustables. Proper coilovers also feel 10x better than the shit ones do.
Tyres, Mx5’s are quite sensitive to tyres, I’ve found i’ve had to change how i’ve been driving in a drift day going from 14” wheels on the rear to 15” rears. Front tyres a lot of people just go with the classic Nankang NS2’s, others have some advans/toyos etc. Just get the best you can afford on the front. Rears I always used scrap tyres but you can get pretty much anything from scrap tyres to brand new. Key thing on Mx5’s is the tyre pressures. 30PSI is the lowest you should be running in an NA, this would be when you’re running scrap tyres on a wet day. For all other conditions you should be bumping the pressures up. If you’re running new tyres these should be higher than if you were running scrap or partworns. Tyres and wheel sizes etc vary so much I can’t really tell you how much to run, you should try to figure out when to bump the pressures up/down as soon as you can. 30-80PSI is about right for an NA Mx5.
Want a hydro? Re-evalute why you feel the need for one. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about fitting hydro’s in mx5’s and I feel theres only been two people who have actually justified putting one in due to being limited whilst twinning with people. Keep in mind, theres always going to be someone out there thats a better driver than you in an mx5, and they’re probably not going to have a hydro. Would you rather limit your skills by having a hydro or learn to drive better without?
If you ever get to the point you feel that one is needed, for example when you are twinning and need to be able to scrub speed, fit a drift button rather than a hydro. You should only be using the handbrake to slow down, not initiate or adjust line etc. These cars don’t have enough power to do that and you’ll likely just shoot yourself in the foot if you’re using it.
Out to the guys pointlessly pulling the hydro whilst drifting.
Oh and on the subject of pointless shit. If you’re really wanting to drift an Mx5 chuck that big gay wing in the bin. Every single mx5 i’ve seen show up to the track with one has had to remove it to be able to skid properly. It also looks terrible and you should feel bad.
Polybushes made a huge difference to how my car felt on the road and on track. However i used cheap ones and they were absolutely shite, but did the job. I would suggest doing polys if you plan to keep the car for some time, the standard bushes are also shagged.
Thats pretty much all of the mods that an mx5 needs. No it doesn’t need googly eyes, teeth or shit paint but thats down to how much you want people to take the piss out of you in group chats I guess.
Speaking of that shite. Do not ask for advice on Mx5Nutz’s Facebook group. Specifically to do with drifting. The amount of nonsense that me and my mates have seen posted on there is hilarious. Technical questions on how to do a procedure on your car, yeah someone will probably give you some helpful advice, but this would be after about 40 people sticking their oar in with what they “think”, that does more harm than good. Use it as a last resource if Google/your mates can’t help. I can’t stress how clueless those lads are.
Alignment. I’m probably going to have to do a write up specific to Drift alignments at some point but I’m just going to put down the range of alignments that the dudes I’ve been speaking to use, then you will be able to try the ranges out for yourselves find works for you. String method on an mx5 is a piece of piss, theres a tutorial somewhere, also you’ll be able to find a toe calculator if needed also. Key thing as well for doing alignment, plan for your eccentric bolts to snap. (if UK model or rusty). I would always suggest having at least two before aligning, then if two snap before you finish stop and get more. Also use a fuck tonne of heat and plusgas to get em off.
Camber: -2.5 – -4 degrees.
Toe: 0” – 0”05’ OUT – moving up from 0 should be for advanced drivers.
Castor: 4.5 – 6 degrees – This is COMPLETELY personal preference. Start low and work your way up.
Camber: -1 degree. – Beginners/inexperienced should work their way up from around -3
Toe: 0” – For N/A engines, if you are running a turbo you will want to add some toe in.
You may struggle to reach -1 rear camber with stock parts having been lowered. There are a few solutions available to correct this like extending upper arms, or shortening lowers. Shortening is the better of the two as you’re not putting strain on the shafts.
Once you find an alignment that works for you then get it laser aligned to have it evened up/precise.
Well if you’ve made it this far I hope that some of the information provided here helps. If you’re reading this to steal for your vlog, your grace period’s up.
As always, this is opinion and not gospel. If anyone strongly disagrees with anything I’m happy to have a discussion and amend the article. Also if theres anything missing, happy to discuss and add it.
If you’re down with the cause head on over to http://insurgentdriftstyle.bigcartel.com/ and pick up a sticker or two to support what we are trying to do.
Massive thank you to: Ryan, Greg, Will, Dan, Conor, Dougie, John, Chris, Adam, Mat, Duncan and Miko!
Also thanks to DZE Photography, AutomotiveWorkz, Connor Mathieson, Russel DoriLabs and Adam Rous Photography for taking some awesome pics of some of the best Mx5 drivers in the UK.