You may expect to see nothing but high performance cars like Chevy Corvettes, Nissan GT-Rs, and Porsche 911s at a track day event, with many of them are probably brought into the pits on trailers. But what about the daily driver that’s from down the street?
That is the case for this 2005 Mazda 3 S. With almost 185,000 miles clocked on the odometer, Jimmy Morrison’s compact four-door sedan has been to high performance driving events (HPDEs) at Barber Motorsports Park and the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park.
After a neighbor totaled his 1992 Honda Accord EX coupe, Morrison’s best friend in Ypsilanti, Michigan, began the search for his next vehicle: a Mazda 3. The car had to fulfill a few requirements: a manual transmission, leather seats, a sunroof, high intensity discharge headlights, and Velocity Red paint. At the time, the only 3 that checked off all the boxes was located in Las Vegas, Nevada. So, he caught a flight, bought it, and drove it back home to Michigan.
A few years later, Morrison’s friend was offered a job in Germany. Morrison bought the car in March 2009 — the same year he learned about HPDEs — and his wife then drove it daily. He became instantly hooked on HPDEs, riding shotgun around Barber Motorsports Park for a couple of years before deciding to get on the track himself.
In 2012, Morrison signed up for his first track day event with the stock Mazda. The next year, he decided to make some upgrades: new Bilstein struts and shock absorbers, HKS sway bars, and EBC brake pads and rotors. His wife’s recommendation, he bought a second set of wheels and tires just for track days: Enkei Racing PF01s and Yokohama Advan Neovas. It wasn’t until his wife purchased a Honda Civic Si in 2016 when he would be able to do anything he wanted to the car.
Since then, he has added Eibach lowering springs, a Mishimoto oil cooler, and rear camber links, rear toe links, and oil temperature and pressure gauges from CorkSport. The next plans on the list include larger front brakes, a roll cage, seats, harnesses, a lighter flywheel, and a Quaife helical limited slip differential.
“People ask me why I don’t buy a Speed 3 with all the money I have and want to put into this one,” Morrison said. “Well, I have this car for one. When I go to the track, no one else has a 3. I like that. Plus, I am not out there to go absolutely as fast as I possibly can. I get a kick out of being on the track with all those other cool cars with my measly 3.”
Experiencing gearhead joy and improving his track driving skills, Morrison has enjoyed every moment with the Mazda 3 on road courses, at a few autocross events, at cars and coffee meets, and when turning wrenches on it. “It isn’t like most Mazda 3s,” he said.
All photos courtesy of Jimmy Morrison.