Instead of dumping a boatload of money in a high-profile racing series, Mazda has chosen to focus on the little guy in sportsman categories. In doing so, Mazda is funding its own program with parts sold to grassroots racers throughout the country.

For example, Mazda makes up about 2 percent of the overall new-vehicle market in the United States, yet its cars account for 50 percent of SCCA club racers.

Mazda also promotes its drivers. Whenever there's an open seat in a professional class, Mazda drivers in the lower classes get the first shot. Last year, the automaker also rewarded Star Mazda champ Adrian Carrio with a $100,000 scholarship in the hope of securing a seat in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic series. And SCCA Spec Miata champ Andrew Caddell was given a new MX-5 and MazdaSpeed parts to build an MX-5 Cup car for 2007.

Now the company wants to expand its motorsports effort by offering even more competitions so drivers can move up through the ranks.

Robert Davis, a senior VP at Mazda, announced a new plan that basically allows a driver to move up from karting to the Speed World Challenge (shown above) and never leave the cockpit of a Mazda vehicle.

"No other manufacturer can make this claim," Davis told a group of automotive journalists last week.

Here's a quick look at the basic format:

Formula Cars
Karting > Shootout > Skip Barber
Skip Barber Series champ > Star Mazda
Star Mazda champ > Champ Car Atlantic

Sports Cars
SCCA Runoff champs > shootout > MX-5
MX-5 Cup champ > Speed World Challenge

Not all of the details were announced, particularly the format for a shootout between karting and Runoff champions. But Mazda is committed to the concept as well as increasing its contingency payouts by 50 percent in 2007. Mazda currently pay contingency in SCCA, NASA, NHRA and Rally America. There are approximately 9,000 Mazda racers in competition.

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