Granby teen speeds to elite class of car racing
October 11, 2013
A local high-schooler is on a fast track to the 2013 Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout.
Zac Munro, a Middle Park High School senior from Granby who just turned 18, claimed the Teen Mazda Challenge title for the Rocky Mountain/ Central Region, and won three other races during this past summer, qualifying him to compete with the best of the best in his class during the MX-5 Cup Shootout. Only 15 drivers get invited to this event.
Munro was invited to race against 14 of the best racers in his class. He will be gunning for a full year sponsorship from MAZDASPEED to help with entry fees and parts expenses for future races.
The teen races in the Spec Miata class, which allows drivers to complete a very limited amount of additional work to a stock Miata, only increasing the horsepower by about 15 horses and slightly adding to the suspension.
The limited amount of work drivers can do to soup-up their cars changes the dynamic of the race and is different than what people are used to seeing in races like NASCAR, where the cars are heavily modified to allow for top speed.
The Spec Miata class isn't focused as much on the top speed of the car as it is the skill of the driver.
The type of racing Munro competes in is often referred to as momentum racing; drivers have to keep up their momentum during a race to win. Momentum would include speed, but is more focused on navigating the course in the most efficient way possible. Unlike NASCAR drivers, Spec Miata drivers have to do more than step on the gas and make a left-hand turn.
"All of the cars are so evenly matched that it all depends on the skill of the driver to win the race," said Zac's biggest sponsor, mechanic and father Brian Munro. "It comes down to who can make it all the way through the race with the least amount of mistakes."
In tune with the car
The most challenging part of racing to Zac is learning the car, something he said he has learned a lot about over the past couple of years, which has helped him improve his racing immensely.
Zac and his father spend a tremendous amount of time tweaking his car to get it to handle just right in both speed and handling to improve his chances of doing well in races.
He strives to keep his cool and not overthink things while on the track, he said. "You definitely need to know when not to get excited," he said.
"You have to be vigilant in watching out for other cars."
The driver also has to get used to the heat, as the temperature inside the car can reach 130 degrees.
In tune as an athlete
Keeping a cool head is a necessity both on the track and off for Zac, as he balances his schoolwork with his racing life and social life.
One of the things the Shootout race requires of racers is for them to complete a business plan, complete with an executive summary, a three-year plan for success, clips of media articles and videos and a host of other aspects to prove the drivers possess the skills to be successful both on and off the track.
"Not only does he race, but he is learning about all of the different things that go into this because it is huge," his father said. Brian Munro believes that Zac might see this as a fun sport to compete in, but he is also gaining professional experience that serve him throughout his life, no matter what he chooses to do in the future.
Racing also requires a clean driving record — no speeding tickets, accidents or the like, as the racing association won't allow him to compete if he gets into any trouble on the road. It's no easy task for an 18-year-old race car driver.
Zac's father commented that he does a good job making sure all of his homework gets completed and that he keeps his nose clean because he is so passionate about the sport.
"He is very passionate about racing," said Brian. "He doesn't play any of the school sports because he is so into this."
Eye on the prize
Investment onto the sport can be hefty.
"It's not like going out to buy a pair of tennis shoes for your kid to play basketball," Brian said.
"But now he is getting national recognition. It's something he really enjoys doing," he added. "It keeps him off the streets and on the track."
Brian speaks as a proud father. "He has exceeded all of my wildest aspirations," he said. "Its mind boggling how awesome this all is… When you get calls from Mazda headquarters wanting to talk to your kid, it perks you up a bit."
Zac would never have gotten into the sport if it wasn't for his father entering him into go cart races at the age of 13, which eventually led to the bigger and better Spec Miata races he now competes in.
Zac also couldn't compete if it wasn't for all of the sponsors who support him through the races. Mazda Motor Sports, Zac's biggest name sponsor, has been helping to pay for parts for his car. He has help from a number of local sponsors as well, including Granby Carquest, Fraser Valley Ace, Freeman Insurance, Steer Equipment Company, and Coldwell Banker Mountain Properties.
Of course, Zac's biggest sponsor currently remains Mountain Madness, his father's excavation company. However that could all change if he wins the yearlong full sponsorship on the line during the Shootout race, and the hefty purse that the winner takes home.
"I'm nervous about the whole thing, and he's nervous about the whole thing, it's a big deal," Brian said.
Zac knows that whether he wins the race, he has a future ahead of him and has plans to attend college, with an eye on either the Colorado State University or the University of Colorado, in hopes of studying engineering. He hopes to continue his racing career throughout his college career, but he said, "my studies always come first."
Reporter Leia Larsen contributed to this story. Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334