Watch the original Mazda Miata race the new MX-5

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Screenshot via YouTube

Mazda rolled out a new MX-5, known more colloquially as the “Miata,” in 2015.

A quarter-century after its introduction, the frisky little drop-top has been steadily improved. It’s gotten bigger and faster. But how much faster?

Mazda decided to find out, pitting a first-generation MX-5 against the latest model and filming the excitement.

A pair of endurance racers were recruited: Jade Paveley to pilot the 1990 Miata; and Owen Mildenhall to helm the new MX-5.

The earliest Miata managed only 116 horsepower. With a larger engine, the new MX-5 cranks out 155. At a race track in Spain, Mazda’s thinking was that such a power differential translates into 4 seconds, so that’s how much of a head start Paveley got.

Would she be able to hold her lead?


Jade Paveley gets the older, slower Miata — but a 4-second head start. Will she be able to drive the little roadster well enough to maintain her lead?

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Screenshot via YouTube

Owen Mildenhall got behind the wheel of the much-improved MX-5. But will better handling, better suspension, and more horsepower be enough? Driving skill can still win races, and Paveley has a head start!

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Screenshot via YouTube

Green flag means go!

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Screenshot via YouTube

And the original Miata is off!

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Screenshot via YouTube

Paveley will put the pedal down for a full 4 seconds before her competition can get off the start line.

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Screenshot via YouTube

Waiting … waiting … waiting … the worst part of racing.

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Screenshot via YouTube

But finally away — and picking up speed fast. The graphic in the upper-right-hand corner shows how far apart the two cars are on the track.

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Screenshot via YouTube

The 2015 MX-5 is a much better race car. Years of racing have led Mazda to make numerous improvements. By all rights, the new MX-5 should catch up.

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Screenshot via YouTube

But this very well-preserved example of the first-gen car is no slouch. And with a good driver at the controls, it can be a lot quicker than its limited power would indicate.

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Screenshot via YouTube

Around the turn …

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… the new MX-5 is closing fast.

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Screenshot via YouTube

He’s got her in his sights.

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Screenshot via YouTube

The 2015 MX-5 can handle these hard corners. Look at how Mildenhall is leaning into that turn.

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Screenshot via YouTube

Notice a big difference between the original model and the new car: the pop-up headlights went away over a decade ago.

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Screenshot via YouTube

Getting closer! Will Jade be able to hold him off?

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About as close as you can get! Bumper to bumper!

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That’s tight racing!

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Now Owen is really asking the car to perform.

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Screenshot via YouTube

The home stretch!

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Screenshot via YouTube

And Jade can’t hold off the pass at the finish. Mildenhall has the extra horsepower and he uses it at just the right moment.

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Screenshot via YouTube

It’s a win for the new MX-5 …

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Screenshot via YouTube

… and a second for the original.

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Screenshot via YouTube

Victory!

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Screenshot via YouTube

Defeat.

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Screenshot via YouTube

Pretty impressive that it came down to a run for the finish line. The original Miata remains a good sparring partner on the track, even with 25-year-old technology.

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Screenshot via YouTube

We got out own chance to sample the new Miata last year.

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Matthew DeBord/BI

Read the review.