As we mentioned way, way back in September, Mazda is currently toying with the idea of campaigning a Mazda3 MPS hot hatch in next year's Australian Rally Championship. To test the waters, Mazda decided to enter a mechanically-stock 3 MPS in this year's Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge - a special asphalt-only round of the ARC. Today, an obviously chuffed Mazda has announced that the plucky FWD hatchback blitzed the field and arrived at the finish line at the head of the Showroom class, and in eighth place overall.
Not only did it manage to eclipse the stage times of many a turbocharged AWD rally rocket (and also claimed the scalp of an R35 GT-R), but the 3 MPS was also in front of Jim Richards and his Porsche 911 GT2 before the rally veteran was forced to retire due to engine problems.
Brother and sister duo Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Smyth were elated with the Mazda's performance throughout the weekend. Despite an electrical malfunction with the car's aftermarket ECU, the 3 MPS delivered a strong performance and won praise from both driver and navigator.
"The Mazda3 MPS just got quicker as the event went on. I only wish it was longer," said Reeves. "To get this result in a two-wheel drive in wet conditions is just amazing."
Reeves' win is also a resounding success for Mazda and a solid validation of the Mazda3 MPS's abilities. But will the car's prodigious speed on tarmac translate to the slippery gravel stages of other ARC rounds? If Mazda gives it the green light for next season, we may just find out.