- When the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup rolls to its "home race" at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca - site of the very first race in series history - next weekend as part of the Continental Tire Sports Car Festival Powered by Mazda, one very familiar face will be a part of the series.
Ara Malkhassian is the only driver to have been with the series since its inception in 2006, and in his No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5 has climbed to the top of the charts in a number of prolific categories.
In addition to earning the career title in number of starts, with 48, the two-time winner also tops the Series in fast race laps, top-five and top-ten finishes.
"We're not just enjoying it, we're passionate about it," Malkhassian says, explaining the effort the team puts into the series. "I think it's a great series, and Mazda has done a tremendous job with picking a great package of items to put on the car. They've taken what was already a great car, the MX-5, and made it into a really excellent race car. The way this car drives around the race track is second to none."
Malkhassian takes his veteran role seriously, not only as a driver but as the team principal for ALARA Racing, doing his part in the series with a full-size transporter that typically brings four or five cars to a race weekend for other ALARA drivers. Like Malkhassian, most of the team drivers - including Tim Probert and Harrison Williams this season - got their start in SCCA Club Racing's Spec Miata class and wanted to climb the ladder. Others, like veteran Jeff Mosing who joins the team this season, were looking for a reasonable way to break into Pro Racing and found the MX-5 Cup.
There's a reason for this, Malkhassian says.
"Besides the car being really great, it's the only true spec series that costs less than 300 or 400,000 a year to run. So we really have no competition as a series, in terms of having a place to race and having a car equal to your competition and be able to spend the sub-$100,000 budget that we typically run."
While there are a number of reasons a driver may come to ALARA Racing or the MX-5 Cup, there are even more reasons to stay. One of those is the familiar atmosphere in the paddock.
"The life blood to the series is welcoming new people in," Malkhassian says.