• Jun 16, 2007
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Mazda's been putting a considerable amount of stock into its newest entrant to the hot hatch segment, the Mazdaspeed3, or, as it's known in Europe, the Mazda3 MPS. With 260 HP and a 280 lb.-ft. of torque being sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual, you'd assume that it would be a torque-steering mess. A brief jaunt a few months back quelled that notion immediately, but Mazda has its sights set on more than just electromechanical problem solving.

In an effort to solidify its place as the most powerful, agile and competent competitor, Mazda brought three MS3s to Germany and let them loose under the capable hands of a few racing drivers. The goal was to show off the MS3's capabilities and make an attempt at the Nurburgring's track record for whatever class the hatch fits into.

Mark Ticehurst, a 'Ring virgin, was able to come within about four seconds of the lap record, posting a time of 8 minutes 39.66 seconds around the circuit. More shocking than the fact that Ticehurst came that close to the record without any previous experience in either the car or the track, is the considerable amount of traffic he encountered along the way. Our Gran Turismo fantasies of a clean track were promptly quashed after seeing how many bikers Ticehurst was forced to avoid during his laps.

Mazda released an account of the attempt, which is posted after the jump, along with three videos showing the MS3 in action.



PRESS RELEASE

MAZDA3 MPS: RING MASTER

The Mazda flies down The Foxhole. Bang up against the rev limiter in fifth, then flat‑change into sixth and up to 150mph. Turbo blowing hard, the Mazda3 MPS hotshoe voraciously sucks up the track ahead, rusty Armco, candy-stick rumble strips and towering oak trees filling the windscreen.

Drawing a dead straight line through the left-right-left-right of one of the Nürburgring's most infamous corners, Mark Ticehurst throws the Mazda down to the bottom of the hill, the car's suspension compressing hard before he hurtles up the other side and peels hard left and up into Adenaur Forest. He's gone as quickly as he arrives, the wailing engine note briefly ricocheting off the hillside before leaving a loud silence in its wake.

The Mazda3 MPS is on a hot one. Nine miles away nervous eyes are glancing at stopwatches and ears are straining to catch the sound of the 3MPS's wailing exhaust note.

The idea behind this trip is simple. Get a box-fresh Mazda3 MPS, take it to the Nürburgring and see how it shapes up against what is arguably the most demanding, exhilarating and treacherous track in the world. Put its hot hatch credentials to the test, in other words. On paper it is the UK's most powerful front-wheel drive hot hatch on the market. But just how well will it fare on the track, on its standard road tyres, suspension and brakes?

There's also talk of trying to better the lap record – a time of 8 minutes and 35.02 seconds – but rather than taking aim at some nebulous goalposts, Ticehurst decides to just push the 3MPS as hard as he can and see how it behaves. Around the 13-mile long Nürburgring it should get plenty of room to stretch its legs.

The Mazda certainly has legs to stretch. Under its humped bonnet sits the same 2.3-litre turbo-charged engine that also sees service in the Mazda6 MPS. The all‑alloy inline four features high-pressure Direct Injection Spark Ignition technology to deliver a blood-spitting 260ps at 5,500rpm and 380Nm of torque at 3,000rpm. Enough bicep to launch the Mazda to 62mph in 6.1seconds and onto an electronically limited 155mph top speed.

Ticehurst's car is fitted with the newly introduced Sports Aero Kit, with a larger tail‑mounted spoiler and spoked wing mirrors; the kit gives the MPS a much‑needed dose of visual aggression.

More importantly though, it also adds a tweaked suspension set-up – the strut front and multi-link rear suspension is fitted with uprated Eibach springs and dampers that lower the car by 25mm at the front and 10mm at the rear. As well as further tying down unwanted body movement, the lowered ride height also promises sharper turn in - which ought to be useful on a circuit with 73 corners. Factor in the huge brakes – 320mm ventilated front disc brakes and 280mm rear discs – and recalibrated TCS (Traction Control System), and the Mazda3 MPS is even better equipped to deal with the torturous 13-mile long circuit.

Getting Mark Ticehurst behind the wheel for the challenge was a simple decision. He's a regular within Mazda's motorsport line-up and was a key member of the company's successful Britcar campaign. Which sounds like a bit of an unfair advantage when it comes to pushing the Mazda3 MPS to the limit.

But then Ticehurst is a Ring virgin. He's lapped the circuit a few dozen times on his Playstation, but until today, he's never set foot on the world's most infamous track. He says he's not nervous but he gets hopelessly lost in Calais on the five-hour drive from Dover to Nürburgring. Let's hope he can make his away around the circuit without stopping for directions...

He comes back after a few exploratory laps and just cannot believe what he has seen. "Madness! It's just sheer madness out there!" I was jousting with everything from Le Mans-spec Porsches to Fiat Multiplas stuffed to the gills with screaming kids. And the bikers! It's

like driving in a swarm of hornets – they are everywhere!" It's a real baptism of fire, but Ticehurst keeps heading out to familiarise himself with the track at every opportunity. Knowledge around the Ring is everything.

He's impressed with the car too. "It's all that torque that makes a huge difference. Because it's such a hilly track, you really need plenty of torque to haul you out of the slower corners and up the steep hills like Bergwerk.

It's a confidence-inspiring car to drive hard too – it feels tight and compliant requiring only small driving inputs to adjust its direction and attitude. Even after each 12.7mile lap of arduous torture the car was still fresh and ready for more." Quite a feat, given his Mazda3 MPS is running standard road tyres, brake discs and pads.

Ticehurst and his team wait until the end of the day, after the track has closed, to get the circuit to themselves for a couple of full flying laps. He heads out on a warm‑up lap, getting his mind together and building up a head of speed. Bulleting along the long straight between Galgenkopf and Antoniusbuche the Mazda3 MPS head butts its 155mph speed limiter. He passes the timing point at full chat in sixth, rev counter deep into the red.

With a clear track ahead of him, it's an ideal opportunity to push the Mazda as hard as he can. And he pushes hard. With its constantly changing surface, off camber corners and momentous pace, this is a terrifyingly complex track. You have to get every single one of the circuit's curves, bends and corners one hundred per cent correct, every single time. Why? Because the exit point of one corner is the entry point for the next.

In addition these movies can be downloaded at www.mazdamovies.com

A small error on corner one will magnify itself into a massive Armco-enhanced mistake come corner five. And if you get it wrong you have a pretty good chance of what's left of you being scraped up with a spatula before being dispatched home in a jam jar.

Ticehurst drives like a man possessed, hurtling the Mazda around the track. His concentration is complete. And it pays off – he puts in a blindingly fast lap. He comes rocketing past the timing point and stops the clocks with a lap time of 8 minutes and 39.66 seconds. That's just 4.64 seconds off the lap record.

Ticehurst is absolutely elated with his time. "That was just off the scale. I drove it as hard as I could – I wasn't thinking about the lap time! I think it says a great deal about the Mazda, that I could just get in it and drive it around a circuit that I hardly know and get within striking distance of the lap record. It's one of the best things I have ever done in a car. Ever."

The best thing, that is, until the summer when he heads back to the Ring to have a real crack at the lap record.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 20 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      To those with stupid comments: learn to appreciate or learn to drive.
        • 7 Years Ago
        You are just oozing with intellectual value aren't you?

        I think a brick wall would have made a better comment. In any case I agree with some former comments, the MazdaSpeed3 needs either an Automatic transmission or CVT alternative. The car is NOT a race car, and many people would be more interested in buying it if they didn't have to deal with a manual (which is HELL if you have to go through traffic everyday).

        I'm sorry but some manual-fanatics need to get off their high horse and accept the fact that although not everybody wants to deal with a manual that doesn't mean they do want a small car with a bit more umph. Then again said people can also wait until the next Evo drops with CVT. Should be amazing.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I wish they offered it with a auto transmission too. Makes life a lot easier for those of us who have to go through stop and go traffic everyday; not to mention it would probably increase sales to all those who don't know how to use a manual.
        • 7 Years Ago
        It's a compact FWD hatchback with 250 HP...
        1. It would be hard to find a FWD automatic that could take that much power and fit under the hood
        2. It's a specialty performance vehicle.

        If you want a 230+ HP vehicle with an automatic get the RX-8, and if you want something that looks a lot like a mazdaspeed3 but with an auto then just save yourself $6000 and get a regular mazda3 5 door.
        • 7 Years Ago
        1)Here's a list of front wheel drive cars with automatic transmissions and around 250hp that seem to handle the power just fine:

        1) Acura TL, 258hp
        2) Honda Accord V-6, 244hp
        3) Saturn Aura, 252hp
        4) Toyota Camry V-6, 268hp

        I could keep going if you like. 250hp is not a lot for a FWD automatic to deal with.

        2) Would you consider Ferrari's, Aston Martin's, Bugatti's, etc. performance cars? Funny that most of those that are sold have some type of automatic or clutch less manual. But to make a better argument the VW GTI, no doubt a "specialty performance car", has 200hp and FWD, but also offers a DSG. Look up the performance numbers, the DSG GTI can actually put down better numbers than the manual GTI.

        Sorry but you have a pretty weak, and stupid, argument.
        • 7 Years Ago
        You seem to have missed the word "compact"...

        All of the cars you listed are mid-sized sedans, not compact hatchbacks.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Thats because epilonious made the statement that, "It would be hard to find a FWD automatic that could take that much power and fit under the hood."

        I wasn't listing Compact hatchbacks, rather cars that manage to have 250hp and still be FWD and have automatic transmissions.

        And I forgot to correct epilonious, the Mazda RX-8 automatic produces less total HP then the manual. It only makes 212hp.
      • 7 Years Ago
      adelossa - do you have a Mazdaspeed 3 or a Mazda 3? Did you just suggest a regular Mazda 3 has torque steer? I almost sneezed my lunch through my nose. See about trading up to the speed 3 if you want something fun to drive. Great cars! The regular Mazda 3 IS NOT a sports car by any means. Curious what you drove before to think that... Even my friend's Prius has as much spunk (doesn't drive as nice).
      • 7 Years Ago
      As a Mazda3 owner, I'm proud of this article. I too have experienced torque steering, and although it might be fun, that fun wears out after a while.
      • 7 Years Ago
      WOW !! The video sure doesn't look like you are getting into the three digits.

      I am really surprised the front tyres (I had to write something British!) weren't scrubbing more with the FWD and weight bias. I sure wish I could have heard the engine better and seen the tach & speedometer.

      Is the MS3 available in Germany? They probably aren't too happy seeing this thing pass them on the left!
        • 7 Years Ago
        The Mazda 3 MPS is sold in Germany since 2006, in tests the car is not doing very weel, it nervs with extrem torque steering, cheap finish quality, it only shines with a cheap price ..you get what you pay for. The brake acceleration performance is average completly inaceptable is the stuipd consuption at sportauto clocked 14mpg average and auto motor und sport clocked a average of 16mpg.
        The laptimes driven on Hockenheimshorttrack race track and Oschersleben Motorsport Arena race track are middle field perfromance in the class.
        At Hockenheim the 2006 Mazda 3 MPS reached a 1:19.6min that is the same time as a stock 2007 VW GTI with 200hp..the top perfroming stock FWD on that track are the Renault Megane R26 with 230hp it reach a 1:18.6min and the Audi TT Mk II 200hp FWD with 1:18.8min.
        At Oschersleben the Mazda 3 MPS reached a 1:52.34min that is the same perfromance that less powerfull stock FWD reach like the Opel Astra OPC, Focus MkI RS, VW GTI. The fastest stock FWD on that track is again the Renault Megane but with the older less powerfull Megane Sport Trophy (224hp) that was replaced by the faster new R26 version of the Megane.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Was this MPS3 modded? Special Eibach springs, recalibret TCS.. sounds like modded to me.. comparing a 260hp modded car laptime to a 240hp stock laptime (driven on a partly wet track 4 seconds faster) is bit unfair ... just to get the 8:39.66min of the 260hp MPS3 in the right spot... that is exatcly te same time driven by a Audi TT 200hp FWD Mk II (sportauto supertest)... only a 2.0l engine only 200hp but exactly the same laptime..
        • 7 Years Ago
        Looks like it's an optional Sport Aero Package that is available in the UK. The suspension, recalibrated TCS and aero modifications are part of the package. I'm wondering if they used the standard tires...

        They claim it was driven by a 'Ring virgin. We'll have to see what he's able to do the next time.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It should be noted that the "track record" in question is the "sport compact" track record, currently held by the Opel Astra OPC.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's actually a great daily driver. You don't need to be on the boost to get some speed. I learned manual on this car and I can't be happier...well maybe if I can drive on the ring too!
      • 7 Years Ago
      #nagmashot

      In all the test i read about the MPS 3 everybody said it had no torque steer.

      I think you can't face it that the Japanese bild beter FF cars than the germans look at the integra type r and the new civic type r.
      • 7 Years Ago
      215 width tires aren't enough for the MS3
      • 7 Years Ago
      From experience, Mazda engineers have almost eliminated the torque steer. I have only really notice it in first.

      I have driven cars with massive torque steer - ie. MKIII VR6 GTi for example - and the MS3 doesn't even come close. Suspension is quite balanced for a front driver and it could use some better tires.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I agree.
      This would be fun for a weekend, but living with it day to day would be too much. Tone it down or add AWD.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "...and you'd have an Audi A3."

        Now now, no amount of differentials, drive-shafts, and transfer cases could make a mazdaspeed3 weigh or cost as much as a GTI/A3
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