Mazda leads the charge in B-Spec racing, the new class for subcompacts that's all the rage in motorsport

Big things are on the horizon for little cars, especially in racing. This year marks the first of an experiment in affordable, accessible motorsport, built entirely around showroom stock subcompact, or "B segment," front wheel-drive vehicles.

B-Spec racing, as the category is called, is being championed primarily by tuning divisions from two companies with grassroots automotive competition in their DNA, Mazda North American Operations' Mazdaspeed and American Honda's HPD. Their efforts have clearly struck a nerve within the auto industry as no fewer than four other companies now boast approved platforms heading into this inaugural season, and cars from at least three others are poised to join the party.

The most road-raced brand in America's homologated fighter fittingly is the Mazda2—Zoom-Zoom in its most concentrated form. Interested challengers can buy a B-Spec kit for the 2 through Mazdaspeed, a package that features a Bilstein coil-over suspension, racing springs, a rear stabilizer bar, strut bearing plate, a braided stainless brake line set, Hawk DTC-60 front brake pads, cat-back exhaust system, air filter, oil cooler, and a setup to remove the car's air-conditioning system.

The low cost of the kit—$2575 for the Mazdaspeed fare—coupled with the modest cost of the Mazda2—which needs to include the installation of a roll cage, racing seat and other safety equipment before competing—makes B-Spec racing some of the least expensive around.

With the support of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), B-Spec classes are set to run on Grand-Am, Pirelli World Challenge and Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC) stages in 2012, as well as at assorted SCCA events.

In Grand-Am, six sprint races—planned for between 30 and 45 minutes in length—will take place during weekend contests at Homestead-Miami Speedway (April 27-29), New Jersey Motorsports Park (May 11-13), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (June 8-9), Watkins Glen International (June 29-July 1), Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (September 7-9) and Lime Rock Park (September 28-29).

The CTCC has committed to a full season of similar subcompact racing (eight rounds across Canada in 2012) and World Challenge will feature three weekends—each with three races apiece—of the Touring Car B-Spec class: co-headlining with NASCAR West at Miller Motorsports Park (April 27-29), with the IZOD IndyCar Series for the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix (June 1-3) and headlining at Mosport International Raceway (June 22-24).

Recently in a rare cooperative effort between adversaries on track, Mazda and Honda teamed up to host a handful of automotive journalists on the Streets of Willow Springs race course at Willow Springs International Raceway. The format was unique-no pitches, no tech presentation, nothing to sell, the professional gear-heads just got in the cars, both race-prepped and stock Mazda2 and Honda Fit, and drove. If their reactions are any indicator, racers will have outsized fun in B-Spec racing.

GRAND-AM Road Racing B-Spec Class
April 27-29 Grand Prix of Miami, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, FL
May 11-13 New Jersey Motorsports Park, Millville, NJ
June 8-9 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, OH
June 29-July 1 Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen, Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, NY
September 7-9 Continental Tire Sports Car Festival Powered By Mazda, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Salinas, CA
September 28-29 Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, CT
Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B-Spec Class
April 27-29 Utah Grand Prix, Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele, UT
June 1-3 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Detroit, MI
June 22-24 Mosport International Raceway SpeedFest, Mosport International Raceway, Bowmanville, ON
Canadian Touring Car Championship B-Spec Class
May 19-20 Mosport International Raceway, Bowmanville, ON
June 8-10 Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve (w/Formula One), Montreal, QC
June 23-24 Circuit ICAR, Mirabel, QC
July 6-8 Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Mont-Tremblant, QC
July 20-22 Mosport International Raceway, Bowmanville, ON
August 3-5 Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, QC
August 16-18 Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Montreal, QC
September 1-2 Calabogie Motorsports Park, Greater Madawaska, ON