Mazda MX-5 track day alignment

MX-5s Are Pretty Good Out Of The Box

The Mazda MX-5 is relatively special when it comes to aligning the wheels. The majority of cars on the road only allow for toe to be adjusted using the tie-rods, where the MX-5 also benefits from camber and castor adjustment from the factory using the eccentric bolts in the lower wishbones. We can use these factory adjustments to our advantage, tailoring alignments to our specific needs, whether it’s a daily driver, a track monster or a drift missile.

A wheel alignment on a Mazda MX-5 is usually a compromise between increased wear and outright performance. The best performing alignment on the track will wear the tyres very quickly on the road. How much wear you are willing to accept and the number of track days, sprints or other motorsport events you take part in during a season will influence your alignment specs.

However, your ideal alignment is still a compromise depending on conditions and the specific track being raced on. An aggressive alignment designed for a warm, sunny day on a low-speed track with lots of corners will not perform as well on a cool day at a high-speed track where it’s raining. Unless you have access to your own alignment equipment or a good friend at local alignment shop, the alignment you choose will need to perform well in all conditions, even if it’s not always absolute fastest.

Camber

Camber is the measurement of how upright the wheel is, which is calculated in degrees. A wheel with negative camber has the top of the wheel tilted in towards the body of the car, where a wheel with positive camber has the top of the wheel tilted out. As your MX-5 corners, the majority of the force is applied to the outside tyres. This force is trying to push the tyre underneath the car.

On a car with neutral to low camber, more force is applied to the outside of the tyre than the inside, reducing the contact patch and wearing the outside faster. On a car with more negative camber the force is more evenly distributed across the surface of the tyre, resulting in more of the tyre in contact with the track and more even tyre wear.

The amount of camber you choose to run is a compromise between how much overall grip you want and how much tyre wear you are willing to sacrifice for daily driving. If your Mazda MX-5 only sees 1,000 miles a year on the road, little compromise needs to be made. However, if you are covering 3,000 miles a year or more then you may need to run less camber to balance out the wear that happens on the outside of the tyre on track and the inside of the tyre on the road.

Braking performance also needs to be considered, particularly in the wet or on tracks that are extremely brake-heavy. Whilst camber increases the contract patch of the outside tyre in a corner, it reduces the overall contact patch in a straight line. This smaller contact patch reduces your MX-5’s brakes’ ability to stop the car. On a fast track with few hard braking zones this may be worth the compromise, but on the road and in the wet it is important that the brakes are effective.

Due to the geometry of the Mazda MX-5 NA and NB suspension, camber is increased when the car is lowered. The rear of the car in particular can become camber-limited, meaning camber cannot be reduced enough, reducing the amount of grip available at the rear compared to the front. When this is the case we would recommend fitting rear camber arms to allow the top of the wheel to be adjusted back out.

M2 Motorsport Front Camber Arms

M2-SB05-43R
Experiencing excessive tyre wear, or want to get
£264.00

M2 Motorsport Rear Camber Arms

M2-SB05-32R
Want no-nonsense camber adjustment without compromise? These adjustable
£192.00

Toe

Toe is the measurement of how parallel the wheels on your MX-5 are to one another and is usually calculated in degrees and minutes, although can also be measured in fractions of an inch or millimeters. Each wheel is adjusted individually, but is generally referred to as total toe. Toe-in or negative toe means that the front of the wheels are closer together than the rear, and toe-out or positive toe means the front of the wheels are further apart than the rear.

A car will want to tun in the direction that a wheel is pointed. If the front of both wheels are toeing out, the car will be keen to turn at the expense of reducing stability. If the front of both wheels are toeing in, the car will be more stable at the expense of reducing willingness to turn. As the Mazda MX-5’s front and rear axles can both be adjusted for toe, the balance can be adjusted considerably.

For sealed tarmac events such as track days, time attack and sprints, the front axle is usually set either to zero or to toe-out which aids turn-in and increases the car’s reaction to steering inputs. The rear is often set to zero or to toe-in which increases stability in turns and reduces oversteer. For sports such as rallying or autosolos where cars are regularly sliding, both axles are set to toe-out which helps them change direction quickly.

Caster

Caster is the measurement of how far the steering axis is from vertical. Like all modern cars, the MX-5 uses positive caster, which angles the steering axis backwards towards the rear of the car. Positive caster helps the steering to self-center, increasing the weight and feedback felt through the wheel as the car is turned. As caster is increased, the amount of camber gained during a turn also increases as the outside wheel pivots around the steering axis. Excess positive castor can make steering heavy and less responsive, however as the castor and camber adjustments on a Mazda MX-5 affect each other, it is difficult to achieve too much castor.

Securing Your Alignment

When on the track, your suspension components are under stresses that far exceed normal road use. Cutting corners, bouncing over kerbs, and doing everything humanly possible to chase down the car the car in front takes its toll on your alignment. Chris took his Rotrex powered MX-5 to the Mighty5‘s track day at Llandow and found the left side of the car had taken a beating, as the track went clockwise.

@rotrexmx5's alignment before and after a trackday at Llandow

@rotrexmx5‘s alignment before and after a trackday at Llandow

Skidnation offer 12.9 grade alignment bolts that will not stretch when tightening. Paired with alignment locks, you can be safe in the knowledge your alignment is not budging even under the harshest of condition.

Mazda MX-5 Fast Road Alignment Settings

These fast road wheel alignment settings are designed for cars which are daily driven with the occasional Sunday morning B-road blast. They focus on safely delivering maximum miles out of a set of tyres without giving up much grip on the road. These settings are best matched to a road tyre such as the Michelin Pilot Sport 3.

Front
Caster: 5.0 degrees
Camber: 1.2 degrees
Toe: 4.5 minutes toe-in per side

Rear
Camber: 1.5 degrees
Toe: 4.5 minutes toe-in per side

Mazda MX-5 Track Day Alignment Settings

These track day wheel alignment settings are designed for cars which see regular track days with some daily driving in-between. They are a good compromise for a variety of conditions on the track and the road, with a small sacrifice to tyre wear. These settings are best matched to a semi-slick track day tyre such as the Toyo R888R.

Front
Caster: 4.0 degrees
Camber: 2.0 degrees
Toe: 0

Rear
Camber: 2.0 degrees
Toe: 4.5 minutes toe-in per side, up to 9 minutes per side for over 200whp.

Mazda MX-5 Race Alignment Settings

These race alignment settings are designed for track cars with little or no use on the road. They provide maximum grip at the expense of rapidly wearing through tyres on the road. These settings are best matched to a race tyre such as the MRF ZTD.

Front
Caster: 4.0 degrees
Camber: 3 degrees
Toe: 0

Rear
Camber: 2.5 degrees
Toe: 4.5 minutes toe-in per side

Customising Your Alignment

Once you have settled on a set of alignment specs that suit your requirements, it is important to monitor how the tyres wear on track. Measure your tyre pressures as soon as you stop the car, aiming to keep them at 30psi when they’re up to temperature. A tyre pyrometer will help you read the temperatures across the surface of the tyre, indicating if your alignment settings are working as intended, but that’s for another blog.

Categories:

Motamec Analogue Tyre Pressure Gauge 0-60psi

MT-TPG-60
£14.95
Categories:

Motamec Digital Tyre Pressure Gauge 0-60psi

MT-TPG-DGI
£19.95

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