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October 8, 2023

The 2024 Mazda MX-5's DSC-Track Will Help You Sharpen Your Racing Skills

Jinba-Ittai is the key concept at the heart of every Mazda, and the MX-5 is the paradigm of that philosophy. Originally known as “Jinsha Ittai,” meaning oneness between car and driver, it was a typo on a calling card that led people to call it, “Jinba-Ittai” afterward. Regardless, the underlying philosophy remains the same: it wasn’t about chasing outright speed, but rather, about providing a sense of engagement that was fun yet approachable.

Since then, every single MX-5, and for that matter, every single Mazda was designed and engineered around the concept of Jinba-Ittai. In the fourth-generation MX-5 (aka the ND), engineers incorporated many subtle improvements over its (so-far) seven-year lifespan. From adding more horsepower and a higher engine redline in 2019 to the equipment of Kinetic Posture Control in 2021, this 2024 adds a new handling system, at least for the manual transmission models, that promises better lap times even to the novice driver: DSC-Track.

To be fair, DSC or Dynamic Stability Control isn’t new technology. Found in most new vehicles, DSC or, if you prefer the more generic term, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a skid prevention system that selectively applies braking force to help a driver regain control when a vehicle starts to spin.

And though they are often interchanged in common language, DSC and traction control are not the same. Traction control only works in the longitudinal or driving direction while VSA also helps drivers cope with lateral or sideways movement. It’s the lateral movement that often causes instability. In addition, traction control only controls wheel spin but does not affect vehicle direction—thus if you plow through a corner too fast, it won’t help you. However, DSC does control vehicle direction and can use traction control to help you pointed in the right direction.

DSC is great, but the thing is, on the racetrack, it could be a detriment. When a car’s pushed to its limits, the last thing a driver wants is to have the throttle cut off or having the brakes applied inadvertently. This is why many drivers turn off DSC. On the other hand, to the inexperienced, because there’s no “guardian angel,” it could lead to trips to the gravel trap or worse, a kiss of the track barrier. Also, by legal requirement, DSC must reduce both brakes and engine torque when the system’s activated. So, Mazda engineers tasked themselves to answer the question: Is it possible for them to develop technology that allows one to drive with peace of mind and help achieve lap times with the DSC turned off?

This is where DSC-Track comes in.

Compared to regular DSC where the system intervenes with both brake and engine torque control when it detects a skid, DSC-Track doesn’t engage control when the vehicle begins to skid. It only controls the countersteering effect. It’s only when the brakes are applied will the vehicle’s motion be managed by the brakes (the engine torque doesn’t drop). It doesn’t interfere with the driver’s driving and only assists when the system thinks the car’s on the verge of spinning out. In short, it turns on only when the car oversteers, but not when it understeers.

Mazda explains that while, “control” may mean a nuisance or a nanny, DSC-Track is only intended to help the driver in dangerous situations. It’s also not intended to make a driver faster (even if DSC-Track has narrowed the difference between driving with DSC off), but it’s a technology that reduces the risk in motorsports. And because it’s a track-related feature, it also takes into account even if the MX-5’s tires and brake pads are replaced to a certain extent.

Best yet, the addition of DSC-Track doesn’t come with any significant price increase or weight penalty. Aside from revised control software, Mazda simply put in a new ABS hydraulic unit.

The MX-5 is often chosen by many as their first sportscar. It’s also a model preferred by many, even experts as their preferred platform in the world of motorsports. This is why Mazda wants to support it by making it a fun, engaging, yet safe platform whether on the road or track. DSC-Track will benefit both track experts and beginners. Experts because they’ll be able to drive with the same lap times with DSC turned off while ensuring safety, while beginners will be able to challenge their limits while still driving with a sense of security.

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