Introduced at last year’s MX-5 Cup Shootout, Mazda has announced that its Women in Motorsports Initiative will be continued for the foreseeable future.

The Japanese automaker has long recognized the need for programs that support female drivers, and utilizing its MX-5 Cup shootout to support emerging women in the sport was an ideal way for the company to contribute to this directive.

“It’s fantastic to see the motorsports industry creating more and more opportunities for women to advance their racing careers,” said Mazda North American Operations Motorsports Program Manager Jonathan Applegate. “With the MX-5 Cup Shootout, we saw the perfect method to contribute to the movement with a scholarship recognizing the top female participant. I’m happy to say that Mazda has committed to continuing this program moving forward.”

The Shootout was created in 2008 to give Mazda drivers the opportunity to earn a scholarship for a full-season of MX-5 Cup competition. Last year, Mazda added a separate $75,000 scholarship for an outstanding female driver taking part, and it was awarded to Savanna Little, who currently drives the No. 63 Hixon Motor Sports car.

“Earning the scholarship from Mazda Motorsports was the kick start I’ve been needing for years to begin my career in professional sports car racing,” said Little. “Many aspiring pros know that it’s a game of hundreds of ‘no’s’ trying to break into pro racing without being self-funded or coming from a racing family. Sometimes all it takes is one ‘yes’, or a few people believing in you. I put my faith in Mazda’s grassroots racing ladder system to help me develop the fundamental skills – not only on track, but off track as well – to one day be able to sustain a career in professional racing.

“I am still on cloud nine every time I step behind the wheel of my ND2 Global MX-5 Cup Car,” the Texan continued, “and I am looking forward to every challenge and opportunity to develop myself further this season.”

“In my opinion, support in the grassroots to the semi-professional racing is vital for women to get to the next level,” said Hixon Motor Sports Team Manager Shea Holbrook. “Mazda remains focused on fostering development, working with the driver, team, even providing mentorship, coaching and media. There’s been wonderful opportunities for women in racing but, the disconnect has also been, it stops where it started. Mazda furthering their support shows the commitment they have not just to women but to grow the industry.”

In the 2021 MX-5 Cup season opener at Daytona, Hixon Motor Sports fielded four female drivers and Mazda hopes to see this trend continue. Next on the schedule is Sebring International Raceway, March 17–19.