Mazda Protege MP3 Project
Tuned by Racing Beat
In early 2000, Racing Beat was invited to demonstrate our 1999 project Miata to a group of visiting Mazda executives. Soon thereafter, Mazda R&D requested Racing Beat's participation in the development in the first of an upcoming performance series of vehicles, later to be called the Mazda Performance Series (MPS).
To start the process, Racing Beat was provided with a 2000 Protege for evaluation purposes. Racing Beat's co-founder and chief engineer, Jim Mederer, used this car as a rolling test vehicle for various engine and suspension upgrades. After thorough fitting and testing, each performance upgrade was evaluated and judged for reliability, emissions, performance, sound, driving comfort, and appearance.
Initial shock development was conducted with the cooperation of KONI USA. This initial development yielded excellent results, but due in part to the logistical problems of Koni's manufactured parts originating in Holland and the associated transportation costs, Mazda decided to use one of their existing Japan-based OEM suppliers, Tokico.
During the shock-tuning process, Mazda decided that a Tokico engineer would travel to Racing Beat's Anaheim, CA production facilities to aid with the tuning process. Through the rather remarkable tuning talents of Mr. Shinichi Kagawa, Tokico Senior Design Department Engineer, an optimum shock setting for the Protege MP3 was selected.
The Protege's suspension was lowered and stiffened through the use a set of Racing Beat performance suspension springs, and larger sway bars were fitted. Modifications were required to the sway bar attachment points on the shock bodies to accept the demands of the stronger loads from the new larger sway bars. Several sway bar sizes were tested on the Protege, with sizes up to 27mm (front) and 22mm (rear) being tested. Mazda's final selection for the production run was 25mm (front) and 20mm (rear). A prototype mounting bracket for the rear bar was developed, but not incorporated into the production run.
A tuned Racing Beat Muffler was developed and fitted to the car. This muffler was designed to prove a deeper more aggressive exhaust note, while keeping within legal noise level limits and Mazda's engineering standards.
A "short-shifter" was custom fabricated and fitted to the car. This kit lowered the original shift knob approximately 1-inch and repositioned the shift knob.
High performance 45-series low-profile Dunlop tires where mounted on 17-inch Racing Hart wheels to provide improve handling performance. These specific Dunlop tires were selected in part because they were the only appropriate ties that had a load rating adequate to satisfy the Mazda engineering standards.
Testing was undertaken on an exhaust header and air intake system, but emissions concerns did not allow the inclusion of these products. These parts were strictly prototype units and were not included on the final vehicle application.
The Racing Beat-tuned Protege was delivered to Mazda configured as detailed above. Some of Racing Beat's settings and specifications were amended to meet governmental and Mazda Corporation's requirements. Such factors as; safety, cost, reliability and warranty issues played key factors in deciding the outcome of the Protege's final specifications.
The Protege's outer skin was given a reworking by Mazda's design team, and the Protege's vibrant color scheme was selected. Originally planned as a release of only 1000 cars, strong initial response resulted in the final production run being increased to 1500 units. The first 1000 units were delivered to the dealerships with the blue color scheme shown here, the remaining 500 were delivered in the fall of 2001 with a vivid yellow paint scheme.
Introduced at the 2000 Las Vegas SEMA show as the Protege MP3, this vehicle was sold directly through Mazda dealerships. Shown is the special edition MP3 badge that was applied to each MP3 model.