Lyn St. James loves to drive her Miata like it’s the Indianapolis 500

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Lyn St. James loves to drive her Miata like it's the Indianapolis 500

Lyn St. James, professional racing driver, advocate for women and the first woman to win the 1992 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year on her 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata, AJ Baime announced.

In the spring of 1990 I was at a racing event in Columbus, Ohio and the host said, “Hey, you want to see my new baby?” I said, “Sure.” We went into his garage and there it was, that little red sports car. I had never seen or heard of a Miata before. I asked if I could sit in it and when I did I put my left hand on the steering wheel and my right on the gear stick. I said to myself, “It just feels right.”

Soon after, I saw billboards and print advertising. Mazda’s motto for the new car was “It just feels right.” Total coincidence. At the time I was under contract to drive with Ford Motor Co.

and so I’ve always had Ford cars. I didn’t need a new car, but I bought one anyway – a first-year Miata.

Photos: Over 30 years of speed

Lyn St. James shows off her 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Lyn St. James drives her 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata at Phoenix Raceway. She has owned it for over three decades.

Steve Craft for the Wall Street Journal

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Lyn St. James drives her 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata at Phoenix Raceway. She has owned it for over three decades.

Steve Craft for the Wall Street Journal

At the time, there was nothing like the Miata – a new, small two-seater convertible sports car. And this hit every brand. It was cool in design, affordable, had durability, performance, and economy. I lived in South Florida and it was a perfect place to go with the top down. Although it was a small four-cylinder, it was a double overhead cam engine. The car loved to drive fast. I definitely got a couple of tickets. It was the kind of car that made you go to your garage so you could say good night to it.

Now, so many years later, I can look back and say that I haven’t owned a car in over three years other than this one that I have owned for over three decades. I am amazed that when I first saw it I had never heard of the Miata. Now you see them everywhere. It has its own successful racing series, the MX-5 Cup. [Built in Hiroshima, Japan, the Miata is today, by far, the bestselling two seat convertible sports car of all time.]

About five years ago I was going to visit my daughter, who lives in San Francisco, and I learned that Tom Matano, who led the design of this car for Mazda, was working in San Francisco. I made an appointment and met him. To me, it was like meeting Enzo Ferrari if you’re a Ferrari nut, or Carroll Shelby if you’re a Shelby nut. He turned out to be the most humble and adorable person and it was an honor to meet him.

These days I am still driving the Miata to the fullest. When I take it out, I want to take it out. I recently went on a road trip south to Mexico with one of my favorite friends. We were on a straight road with no speed limit. I was towing at 120 mph. The car was as happy as an RV, as they say, and so was the driver.

In 1985 Ms. St. James won her class in a 500 kilometer endurance race in Watkins Glen, NY. Although she was with a passenger, she covered every 500 kilometers by herself.


Photo:

Lyn St. James

Ms. St. James with a Ford racing car at Daytona International Speedway in 1985.


Photo:

Lyn St. James

Write to AJ Baime at [email protected]

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