In 2008, Playboy became the title sponsor for the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup series. The MX-5 Cup boasted a thirty-percent growth in 2007 and was projected to become the number one spec professional series in the world.

The series is part of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder that promotes champions of Mazda series to the next level of their career. The motivation for drivers to enter the MX-5 Cup division is an opportunity to earn a factory-supported ride in next year’s SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge Touring Car Championship, which is valued at $250,000.

All Mazda MX-5 Cup cars receive only minor upgrades. Bolt-on modifications include a new intake manifold and exhaust system which increases the engine output from 170 to 200-horsepower. All the vehicles are equipped with a six-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip differential.

The suspension uses a coil-over kit with double adjustable shock absorbers and roll bars. Khumo tires are mounted on 17X8” wheels. Brake pads, fluid and lines are upgraded for the demands of racing.

For safety, the Mazdas are fitted with an eight-point roll-cage welded into the car, racing seatbelts and a fire extinguishing system.

The season consists of eight 45-minute timed races. The first event of 2008 will be held in May at Road Atlanta. Three weeks later, teams travel to Canada for round two. There is a break until July and then contests are conducted at Portland and Road America. Following these two races, the series returns to Canada to compete on the streets of Trois-Rivieres. In September, there are race weekends at Miller Motorsports Park and Thunderbolt Raceway. The finale is held in mid-October at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Round five of the 2008 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup was held at Trois-Rivieres. Drivers would compete in a forty-five-minute contest around the eleven-turn 1.521-mile temporary street circuit.

A tight field of nineteen SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup competitors head into corner one for the start of round five at the Circuit Trois-Rivieres. Leading the way is the pole-sitter, Eric Foss, in the No. 28 Team MER / Autobarn Mazda MX-5. Beside Foss is the other front row starter, Ara Malkhassian driving the No. 11 Alara Racing prepared Mazda MX-5. Immediately behind them are Todd Buras and Elivan Goulart.
At Trois-Rivieres, the round one winner, Eric Foss, captured his third pole position of the season driving the No. 28 Team MER / Autobarn Mazda MX-5. On the way to the top spot, Foss set a new lap record. He got a clean getaway at the start of the race and had a comfortable lead before a late-race caution. The contest ended with a green-white-checker and despite a serious challenge from Todd Buras, Foss captured the win.
Todd Buras dominated the practice sessions at Trois-Rivieres, but in qualifying, he could do no better than third fastest. At the beginning of the race, Buras pressured the second place starter, Ara Malkhassian. On lap-9, the driver of the No. 56 MX-5 made the pass. By this time, the leader, Eric Foss, had ‘checked out’. There was a full course caution late in the contest, but Buras could not capitalize and finished second.
The team leader of Alara Racing, Ara Malkhassian, was looking to redeem himself at Trois-Rivieres. Last year, he just missed the podium, but in 2008, Malkhassian increased the likelihood of standing on one of the three steps when he qualified second fastest. In the opening stages of the contest, he had a terrific battle with Todd Buras. On lap-9, Malkhassian lost second place to Buras but did manage to finish on the rostrum.
Alara Racing brought four Mazda MX-5 to Trois-Rivieres. The No. 16 entry was raced by Christian Franck. During the qualifying session, he recorded the sixth fastest time. Franck, along with the eighth-place starter and Road America winner, Ryan Schimsk, had moved into fourth and fifth place just before the final caution. They challenged, Ara Malkhassian on the restart but were unable to improve their positions.
The 2008 podium for round five of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup. In the center is the winner and championship points leader, Eric Foss. On the right side of the rostrum is the runner-up finisher, Todd Buras. Buras now trailed Foss by twenty-two points in the title chase. The final position of the podium is occupied by the third-place finisher, Ara Malkhassian.

11Eric FossTeam MER / Autobarn Mazda - Mazda MX-532-
23Todd BurasHooverspeed / - Mazda MX-532-
32Ara MalkhassianAlara Racing - Mazda MX-532-
46Christian FranckAlara Racing - Mazda MX-532-
58Ryan SchimskTeam MER / Airco Mechnical - Mazda MX-532-
64Eilvan GoulartGRE / Velocity-Club / Redline - Mazda MX-532-
714Jim JordanHale Motorsports - Mazda MX-532-
810Deborah LothTeam MER / Loth Endodontics - Mazda MX-532-
913Randy Hale IIIHale Motorsports / Patron Tequila - Mazda MX-532-
1015Christopher RhoadesTeam MER / Zebra Air - Mazda MX-532-
1116Shannon McMasterTeam MER / Yo MTV Raps - Mazda MX-532-
129Robert MichaelianHooverspeed - Mazda MX-532-
1318James RhoadesTeam MER / Zebra Air - Mazda MX-531-
1419Laura OlsonHooverspeed - Mazda MX-531-
155Rob HuffmasterTeam MER / Huffmaster Co - Mazda MX-530-
167Brad RampelbergHooverspeed - Mazda MX-527Accident
1711Harrison WilliamsAlara Racing - Mazda MX-526Mechanical
1817Bill SweedlerHale Motorsports / Patron Tequila - Mazda MX-525Accident
1912Tim ProbertAlara Racing - Mazda MX-524Mechanical

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