Paul Bonaccorsi. Click image to enlarge

by Paul Williams

The action was fast and furious in the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America)
Touring Car Championship race held at Toronto’s Mosport International
Raceway in August. The usual BMWs were challenging for the lead, along with
an array of Lexus IS300s and Acura Integras.

But at the end of the race it was Californian Paul Bonaccorsi on the podium
with the champagne soaker. His car? A Mazdaspeed sponsored Protegé.

Mazdaspeed is the performance accessory division of Mazda, which backed three Protegés in the Touring Car Championship this year. Proteges finished 2nd (0.2 seconds out of the lead) and 5th yesterday (October 27, 2002) at Virginia International Raceway, the last race of the Touring Car season. Mazda came third in the manufacturers’ standings, after Acura and BMW. Mazda has a long history in motorsports, winning Le Mans in 1991 (the only Japanese manufacturer to do so).

Race involvement, a history of motorsports activity, and the proliferation
of street tuning and slalom competition are reasons behind the introduction
of the 2003 Mazdaspeed Protegé, recently reviewed by
correspondent Lawrence Yap. It’s a limited-run, factory tuned street package
developed in conjunction with a range of well-known racecar companies,
performance engineers and parts suppliers.

But what’s the difference between it and Bonaccorsi’s Touring Car race

First of all, the Touring Car is based on the Mazda MP3, not the brand new
Speed Protegé, plus, of course, the street car has a killer sound system.
However, from the outside, you’re still looking at a modified,
current-generation Protegé.

Underneath, the similarities and differences continue.

According to Mr. Bonaccorsi, “Our race Protegé does not have too many
similarities anymore. But we still run a 2.0-litre motor, 5-speed
transmission, stock axles, shift linkage, power steering and rack, wheel
bearings, and stock rear disk brakes. The body panels are all MP3.”

“After that just about everything has been modified for the race series:
huge 13″ Brembo front brakes, custom suspension parts, some aluminum parts, lots
of engine mods to make 230 horsepower. The engine management system is Motec and
adjusted each session to maximize power. We turn about 8300 RPM with a top
speed of 232 km/h”

As Mr. Bonaccorsi points out, “These cars are real race cars. We weigh 2300
lbs with driver.”

Compared to the 2003 Speed Protegé, the Touring car is understandably lighter
and more powerful. The car in the Mazda showroom features a
Calloway-engineered Garrett turbocharger to boost power from 130 horsepower to 170 horsepower The front rotors are big at 10.8″, but don’t match the racecar. ABS is not allowed in the Touring Car series, but comes standard on the Speed Protegé.

Wheels on the racecar and Speed Protegé are both Racing Hart 17″, but the
race car’s wheels add a half-inch of width, to 7.5″, and use a special Toyo
tire. The street car rides on Bridgestone Potenza RE040s.

“There’s one other similar item,” adds Paul Bonaccorsi. “They’re both fun to
drive. I have raced both. But the street one is much smoother and has a
better radio.”

See also: First-Drive – 2003 MazdaSpeed Protegé

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