Mazda Champion: Bill Weaver

A multi-time Formula Car Challenge champion in Formula Mazda, Weaver just secured another title

Bill Weaver isn’t exactly sure how many Formula Car Challenge Formula Mazda titles he’s earned. He just likes to go out and win races, and the rest takes care of itself.

“I’ve never really focused on winning the championship,” he explains. “Back in the day when I was running my Formula Mazda exclusively in SCCA, I never focused on the championship, I just wanted to win races. For me, it’s more fun to win the race each weekend and I’ve always looked at it as if you do that enough, you’re more than likely to win the championship.”

The Formula Car Challenge is a West Coast series for Pro Formula Mazda, FM and FormulaSPEED – a formula car built around the Mazda MZR engine – cars. The series counts among its alumni 2017 Indy Lights champ Kyle Kaiser as well as IndyCar racers Gabby Chaves and Zach Veach.

Weaver has run the series since its inception and won 10 of 14 races in 2017. The series largely grew out of the desire for some Formula Mazda drivers to have their own run group.

“I ran SCCA ever since 1999 when I bought my car,” Weaver says. “There were a number of pro guys causing issues in Group 2, which was the San Francisco Region formula car class. We had approached San Francisco Region about creating our own run group, but at that time they didn’t have room in their schedule. So Telo Stewart of World Speed Motorsports started talking to NASA, and NASA welcomed us with open arms. We had three classes in that run group, and that appealed to myself and most of the other guys because we’re now running with like cars.”

Initially, the series started by using downtime during Jim Russell School weekends. Now it runs mostly on club racing weekends at Sonoma Raceway, Buttonwillow, Portland, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Auto Club Speedway, but is also one of the support series for the GoPro IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma.

“It’s really just another race weekend, but it’s a different experience for us,” he says. “Not only in the fact that there are spectators, but that there are people roaming around our paddock, looking at our car and asking us questions. That appeals to most of us.”

Now 64, Weaver started in karts, but gave that up at age 18 for snow skiing. Fast forward a couple of decades, and he mentioned to his wife that a racing school would be a great gift. She listened, and a four-day school with Bob Bondurant was his birthday present. That school was two days in sedans and two days in formula cars, and he really preferred the formula cars. Later that year he stopped by Mazda Raceway, where the Jim Russell school was at the time, and signed up for the three-day Advanced Racing Course, conducted in the early version of Formula Mazdas. That led to their graduate runoffs, the prize for which was a full season in the school’s racing series.

“I finished second, which got me, I think, five free weekends. The following year, 1995, I entered the school series, and after my free weekends, I was second in the points championship, so how do you quit, right? The hook was set. So I paid for the remainder of that season, finished second then ran the next two years. I enjoyed the heck out of it, but after ’97, I quit. I had two young kids at the time and I thought I should focus my efforts elsewhere.”

A few years later, a friend who had raced with him at Russell and who had bought himself a Formula Mazda, started calling, trying to lure him back in. When that didn’t work, he called Weaver’s wife, Joanne. Eventually, Weaver wore down and bought his own Formula Mazda, and the rest is a rather successful history.

Weaver attributes his success to learning the fundamentals early on with the Jim Russell school and, he adds, having no fear. But really it comes down to what he learned early on. “I can tell with a couple of guys in my racing group from following them around the track that they never learned the fundamentals. A lot of success comes from learning the proper balance of a rear-engine car. It’s all about weight transfer.”

Weaver will continue to run the Formula Car Challenge in 2018, but, just as he did in 2014 when the SCCA National Championship Runoffs was at Mazda Raceway, he’ll enter the Runoffs again in 2018 when Sonoma Raceway hosts the event. As he says: “I want to believe I’ll have a pretty good shot at it since it’s basically my home track.”