Michele Abbate’s Plans to Power-Shift Her MAZDASPEED Protégé to Bigger and Better Things

Michele Abbate's MAZDASPEED Protégé is a weapon and she knows how to wield it effectively. A recent graduate from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Michele has been racing for nearly half her life.

Starting in go karts, she advanced to cars, running track day events and regional competitions including Redline Time Attack, NASA and the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Tour. Currently her goals are set on earning her NASA license and she recently competed in her first wheel-to-wheel race ever, a 600 Racing Legends Car road course race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Her Titanium Gray 2003.5 MAZDASPEED Protégé has been built to run in the SCCA's Street Modified (SM Open) class and Redline Time Attack Stock FWD division, where Michele has been a consistent Top-5 finisher serving as a springboard for her racing career.

Pop the hood and it's clear to see the 2.0-liter MZR plant has been fortified with turbo system tweaks. The stock hairdryer has been ditched in favor of a Garrett GT28RS turbo. The so-called "Disco Potato" turbo provides a bump in top-end flow and little compromise in response compared to the stock unit.

Spent gases exit via a Vibrant three-inch turbo-back system. Intercooling, a "soft underbelly" trouble spot for the Protégé, has been addressed with a MazdaManiac front-mount IC that uses aluminum piping in place of the stock-issue ABS pipes. An HKS SQV blow-off valve and an ATP wastegate actuator add durability and big-boost capability to the system.

On the subject of durability, Michele has added a Walbro 255 fuel pump to fuel the fire and an AWR radiator to keep things cool lap after hot lap. A GReddy PRofec B boost controller, an HKS Type 1 Turbo Timer and Innovate LC-1 Wideband keeps the turbo system running smooth, while an Exedy Stage 1 clutch and pressure plate puts the power down.

To put all that MAZDASPEED thrust to good use, the Protégé runs a set of custom BC Racing coilovers with a stout 7k/8k coil spring setup. BC has a wide variety of coils and will re-valve the coilovers when extreme springs are chosen.

After the coilovers Michele assaulted the parts bins at GTSpec employing GTSpec trailing arms, GTSpec rear V-brace, GTSpec front strut bar, GTSpec lower tie brace, and GTSpec four-point ladder bar to better carve up unsuspecting apexes. Centric pads and rotors team with stainless brake lines to enhance stopping power.

Michele is quick to thank H1 Racing for supporting her with most of the Protégé's engine mods, all its race alignments and the lion's share of the critical maintenance on the car.

"I've learned 80 percent of the things that I know from the H1 crew, so any recognition you can give them would be sincerely appreciated." Consider that done, Michele.

Michele has tallied a number of impressive finishes in 2010, including her first Red Line Time Attack podium at the September event at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, and a class win in the Enthusiast class at the October Red Line Time Attack at Infineon Raceway.

She has driven her Protégé as well as other cars in her racing exploits, which only deepens her knowledge of driving on the ragged edge. But more than anything, Michele's outstanding result at the Legends race shows she can wheel and deal in close quarters.

On mid-December, 2010, after being moved to ninth on the grid because of a weight underage snafu during the heat race, Michele proved a smooth operator as she methodically surged to the front to take the lead with two laps left. She held on to win her first Legends main event.

On Sunday a broken tie-rod end during practice sidelined her car but she got lucky and was offered a ride in another Legend racer. Michele promptly won the heat race and put herself on pole for the main event. After leading six or seven laps the same tie-rod gremlin that plagued her original car surfaced on the second, but she still managed a third-place finish. A win and a third at her first Legends weekend is quite an impressive start.

Side-by-side racing has really lit a fire and it would not be a big surprise to see Michele in MAZDASPEED's Driver Development Ladder Series some day.

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