The 2014 SCCA Formula Mazda National Champion finally found the top step of the podium.
Mike Anderson may have been born into racing – his father started racing in the ’70s and his first trip to the SCCA Runoffs was in the womb – but it took him several attempts to actually claim his first gold medal at SCCA’s premier Club Racing event. In previous events at Heartland Park Topeka and Road America, he was competitive and finished on the podium three times. It took last year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for him to finally claim the title.
Anderson started racing Formula Mazda nearly 14 years ago when a customer brought him one to take care of, and he liked it. But it’s what he’s discovered in the years since that keeps him, with longtime sponsor Hasa, in the class.
“It’s the competitiveness of the series and support of the series,” said Anderson, who also won the 2003 Formula Mazda Western Series, during a recent Majors race at Auto Club Speedway. “It’s been around for so long and it’s still going strong. We have nine cars here this weekend. They had an event in Cresson, Texas, this weekend also where they had 10 cars, so it’s a strong class. It’s really competitive, especially on a National Championship level, running against multi-time champions like Darryl Wills and Allan McCallum.”
It was McCallum that nearly kept him off the top step of the podium once again at the Runoffs. Anderson started on pole and looked to have the race in hand until McCallum started creeping back to him. A full-course caution after 16 laps erased the gap completely. When the race went green two laps later for a green-white-checker finish, McCallum made his move.
“I knew I was going to have my hands full, from the start, with Darryl [Wills] and Alan [McCallum] behind me,” Anderson said after the race. “After that yellow flag came out, I knew we were going to have our work cut out for us. The restart was going to make or break our race. Alan did a great job of capitalizing on every opportunity he had to get by me.
“We were side-by-side, splitting traffic. It was an amazing race. I had a good run coming off the last corner and when I saw the white flag, I knew that the race would be decided in Turn 2. He did everything he could do to keep me behind him, but we were able to make it happen.”
The move for the lead also earned him the GoPro Hero Move of the Race award in addition to the National Championship. A few months later he was also named the San Diego Region SCCA Driver of the Year.
Anderson can’t point to anything in particular that led to winning the championship after coming so close three times before. He’s not sure that even the host track of Mazda Raceway, an easy tow from his Southern California home and a track he’s well familiar with, played a part (and either way, he wants to go to Daytona to defend his title).
“Whether it was at Topeka or Road America, we’ve always been competitive,” he said. “I love [Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca] and I do have a lot of time there, but Allan and Darryl were still strong. I think it was just our time.”