Jeff Abbott’s MX-5 power slides to the beat of a different drummer
The Mazda MX-5 roadster is a tried-and-proven road race machine with its own spec series, so 99.9 percent of the time when you see one sideways fully counter steered with the tires smoking, something is dreadfully wrong. Meet the 0.1 percent: Jeff Abbott’s Miata is a drifter competing in America’s premiere series, Formula DRIFT, so it is quite at home at the edge of adhesion.
It all started innocuously enough. Jeff bought his 1999 MX-5 in East Greenbush, New York, and had no real plans. “I got some cheap springs and dumpy 17-inch sunken battleship wheels. They were like 17x7, +40 [offset] or something, made for a front-wheel drive Honda. I was about 24 and just wanted it louder and lower.
“I was always a hooligan on the street. The Miata’s rear drive was advantageous as most still had front drive. They did burnouts; I did donuts, so I won.”
In 2004, Jeff moved to Temecula, California, where he discovered Drift Day Association and caught the drift bug. “It was just a great time,” says Jeff, “I mean, smiling-the-entire-time fun.
“I still remember some of the instructor/pro drivers my first day. Tony Angelo gave me a high-five for being from New York. I met Matt Powers, my longtime drift buddy at Drift Day. Everyone there told me the Miata is horrible for drift and to get another car. The car takes a lot of work, but I feel this fact accelerated my learning curve. As my skills increased, so did the modifications to the car. A lot had to do with budget, too. Drift is pricey stuff; the better/more competitive you get, the more cash you drop.”
“The biggest challenge I have had and still have in my mind is the power and its delivery. The main problem is that I have a 1.8-liter [motor] in a world where V8 swaps are the latest, greatest trend. The Miata BP engine is a gem that can be built to have great power, but it’s not on tap when I need it. So I will continue to try and find a formula for a system from the throttle body all the way to the downpipe from the turbo to get better response.”
Jeff’s Miata runs a fully built motor from Millennium Motorsports featuring JE forged pistons, Eagle rods and a custom-cut crank. The block is topped by a fully ported head fitted with over-size valves and upgraded valve springs.
The MX-5’s turbo system is a collection of custom pieces topped by a Garrett GT2871R turbo with a .63 A/R and a T3 footprint, a trick three-inch downpipe by Millennium Motorsports, and a custom fabricated intake by Millennium Motorsports. The turbo is positioned right off the block where it gets maximum flow and heat to keep it humming in its sweet spot.
An Electromotive Tech 3R engine management computer tuned by Road Race Engineering of Santa Fe Springs runs the show. This combination puts 330 horsepower to the ground while enduring continuous on-off throttle situations and high revs.
Jeff is quick to point to the suspension as his favorite mod on the car. “I run Stance coilovers. The car handles awesome on the track and the Stance coilovers absorb all the abuse I throw at them, which is a lot. You should see the underside of my car.”
Flyin’ Miata anti-sway bars, TC Sportline adjustable upper rear control arms, and custom front control arms keep the Mazda tracking true in mid-drift, while Level 7 super angle front knuckles provide the needed steering angle to maintain drift and recover when Jeff gets a bit too tail happy. The Mazda’s roll cage also rates high because it makes the car look a hell of a lot tougher, and Jeff reports it also stiffens up the chassis.
Like many enthusiasts, Jeff sees his Miata as a work in progress. “I plan to make more power. Whether it will be with this engine or an LS-series V8 engine, I want a more appropriate power plant that will deliver the power when I need it as the car transitions into a drift. I also need a stronger transmission, either a transplant or a better gear set and the differential will also get changed at some point.
“I will be putting in a RX-7 Turbo II rear end, stronger diff, and axles. The wheels also need to be changed to something lighter with better offsets for the Miata. I plan to run bigger tires for the bigger power. A lot of these plans are all hopes and dreams at this point. I don’t have the budget for any of that right now.”
“I have had a great time with the Mazda. I hope to improve as a driver so I can stay competitive. This will entail improving the car, and I will continue its development as I can afford to.
“I hope I do justice for the Miata community. I know drifting is not the traditional motorsport you would expect to see a Miata, but I am still a Miata guy. If the fun continues and I continue to build new relationships, I will be out there sliding around, pumping my fist, run after run.”
Jeff Abbott’s 1999 Mazda Miata MX-5
Built by Millennium Motorsports
JE 9:1 Forged Pistons
1mm oversized valves
Mild head work
Volvo valve springs
Fidanza adjustable cam gears
Billet oil pump gears
Modified intake manifold
Torco SR5 20w50 race oil
K&N oil filter
Garrett GT2871R turbo
Millennium Motorsports 3-inch down pipe
Millennium Motorsports Custom intake
Tial 44mm waste gate to atmosphere
Random generic manual boost controller
Tuned by, Road Race Engineering. Santa Fe Spring, CA
Wiring by ThePaulTaylor.com
Mazda Miata 6 speed
Fidanza aluminum flywheel
ACT sprung 6 puck clutch disc
ACT Street/Strip pressure plate
Torco RGO 85w140 gear oil
3.636 R&P gear
ATS deftforce 2 way differential
Torco RGO 85w90
Torco Type F limited slip additive
Axxis brake pads
Millennium Motorsports Stand Alone E-Brake
Wilwood 2 piston calipers
Wilwood master cylinder
Customized Wilwood brake lever
Stainless brake lines
Front: 17x7 spaced to -5 offset
Rear: 17x9 spaced to 0 offset
Falken Azenis 615K 215/40/17
Energy Suspension bushings
Flyin Miata sway bars
Custom front control arms
TC Sportline rear upper adjustable control arms
LEVEL 7 Super angle front knuckles
Sparco Sprint seats
G-Force 5 point harnesses
Personal 330mm wheel
Miatacage.com roll cage
By PAC body works, Long Beach CA
All custom colors made by Ozzie
330whp, 315 lbs.-ft. torque at 20psi on 110-octane fuel