The six-round 2019 Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich season kicks off this weekend as part of the inaugural visit to the Circuit of The Americas for the NTT IndyCar Series. Last year’s championship came down to the final race where Nikko Reger clinched the title and the $200,000 that accompanied it, narrowly edging Bryan Ortiz and Rookie of the Year Selin Rollan.

Last year featured 2,467 passes for position in the 12 races, which were won by six different drivers. This season could be even more intense given the introduction of a new MX-5 Cup car, now with the 181hp, 7500rpm SKYACTIV-G 2-liter engine available in Mazda’s 2019 MX-5 Miata.

With the updated Miata comes a new two-class structure, ND-2 showcasing the new, 181hp version while the previous generation Cup cars will compete in ND-1.

The 2019 ND-2 class champion will receive a $200,000 career advancement scholarship from Mazda, while the ND-1 class champion will receive a $100,000 scholarship that can be applied to the 2020 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup series.

Also, the Rookie of the Year in ND-2 will receive a $75,000 scholarship from Mazda.

The Global Mazda MX-5 Cup has gone from strength to strength in its short history, delivering on its promise of outstanding competition in races staged at high-profile events and delivering incredible value. The belief that racing should be fun, reasonable, competitive, and that every driver should have an equal chance at victory is what drives the category.

MX-5 Cup cars all start life as production vehicles, transformed by Long Road Racing into race vehicles. Even with safety cells, upgraded performance equipment, and a strong support package from LRR, the SKYACTIV-powered Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car can be delivered at under $60,000.

“With over 200 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup cars sold to date, we are really pleased with how racers have responded to the ND platform,” said John Doonan, Director, Mazda Motorsports. “This weekend at COTA will be the first time that we witness the newest version of the MX-5 Miata on track in competition.

“The MX-5 Miata has always been a favorite in the racing community, but the offering of a turn-key race car, the Global MX-5 Cup, has been successful beyond our dreams. The Cup races here at COTA were absolutely amazing in 2018, and we are so glad to be back. Hold on to your seats, this field of drivers is going to put on quite a show this weekend — and on throughout 2019.”

Once again, the series will benefit from the support of title sponsor Battery Tender and presenting sponsor BFGoodrich Tires, while Andersen Promotions continues for a third season as promoter of the series.

Selin Rollan, who emerged from the 2017 Mazda Road to 24 Shootout to capture the $100,000 package from Mazda toward his 2018 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup program, was the star of the show in the first race of last year’s COTA weekend as his No. 87 Mazda Road to 24 / Sick Sideways MX-5 scythed through the field in rainy conditions to win.

“I am very excited to return to the track where I got my first MX-5 Cup start and win,” said Rollan. “Memories were made there that I will always cherish! I feel a little more confident going in this year and am hoping to repeat last year’s performance. It’s nice knowing a little more about the series and how most drivers race.

“The track itself is great,” he added. “I love the opportunity for drafting and race craft, as well as the technical esses and elevation changes. I can’t wait to see the turnout we get this year with IndyCar running as well.”

The other 2018 COTA race winner, Bryan Ortiz, is similarly chomping at the bit.

“Definitely it helps to know that you were competitive and able to run up front, but the racing is so close that anything can happen,” said Ortiz. “Still, we will go back with the same confidence and looking for that top step of the podium again.

“I have not done much on the racing side in the off-season but I’ve used iRacing a lot, so I am ready for the challenge and crazy to start this season already!”

Texas is well represented on the entry list, with drivers Alex Bachoura (Houston), Michael Globe (Brenham), Hernan Palarmo (Houston), David Staab (Dallas), Cory Rueth (Austin), Zach Lee (Houston) all on the provisional entry list.

There will be at least one new face in the paddock in 2019, too, as 18-year-old Michael Carter, from Savannah, Ga., winner of the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout, will use his scholarship award to compete in the full Global Mazda MX-5 Cup series with Copeland Motorsports

“I feel nothing but excitement heading into my first Global Mazda MX-5 Cup event,” said Carter. “Everything that my family and I have worked toward in racing is finally becoming a reality, and it is just a dream come true. I am really looking forward to getting this season started and see where it takes us.

“I got the chance to race my Spec Miata in the SCCA Hoosier Super Tour event at COTA in early February in order to prepare for this first race. I really love the flow of the esses. Overall, it is a very fun and challenging track, and I am really looking forward to the racing ahead.”

Another new name to keep an eye on is Loni Unser, who will make her Global Mazda MX-5 debut this weekend with Sick Sideways racing, looking to open a new chapter in her family’s rich history of racing.

Global Cup updates will be available on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GlobalMX5Cup, with results, news and updated photos through the weekend and summer at https://mx-5cup.com.