Mike Anderson, Randall Wilcox and Eric Anderson

Spirit of Mazda: Eric Anderson

Continually striving for excellence in car preparation, he’s happy to let others take the glory

Eric Anderson has built one of the best Super Street Modified cars in the country, and certainly the fastest SSM Miata. That car once again won an SSM national championship at the 2018 Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships. But Anderson was driving it in X Prepared, where he scored a trophy and came darn close to winning, while two other drivers drove it in SSM. There, Randall Wilcox took his second national championship in the class driving Anderson’s Miata.

“He gave up his seat in SSM to two other people,” explains Wilcox. “He gave me and Jason Collet our best opportunity to win SSM while he sacrificed himself and went and drove in XP so his car would have the best opportunity to win SSM. And while he was at it, he managed to podium in XP and almost sneak away with a win.”

While Anderson is always working on improving his driving through data, video and discussing technique with other drivers, it’s the car building and preparation where he excels. Not that he’s not a good autocrosser – trophies from the Solo Nationals prove he’s more than proficient behind the wheel – but rather he’s more than happy to let others take the spotlight.

“He’s always looking for input from people he thinks are better drivers than him, and he takes the input well. I know he doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a driver, because he’s usually beaten by a co-driver. The reason for that is he only puts people in the car that he thinks are capable of winning a national championship,” says Wilcox.

That speaks both to Anderson’s continuous Kaizen and his challenger spirit. Compared to some, Anderson is relatively new to the autocross game, having been at it for about eight years. But he set a nearly impossible goal right off the bat.

“He is one of the most driven guys I have ever met,” says Wilcox. “Once he gets into something, he’s committed. I remember meeting him around 2009 or 2010; he started out with his little supercharged Miata with maybe 180hp. In our [Tennessee] region we had both Brian Johns and Dan Chadwick in their RX-7, and Carter Thompson developing his new RX-7 at the time. Eric saw those guys and said, ‘I’m going to beat those guys.’ That was one of his goals. He got humbled initially…he got humbled badly. But he didn’t give up, he didn’t get discouraged; he just kept plotting away at improving the car. We were at the point where to win a local, we had to be in a championship-level car. We had six drivers in SSM at a local [event] that could win a national championship, or had won national championships.”

Early on, one of the SSM RX-7 drivers told Anderson he was wasting his time trying to make an SSM winner out of a Miata. The Air Force jet mechanic-turned-banker took that as a challenge. But it wasn’t only building the car into a winner that has made Wilcox and Anderson successful, it’s preparing for every eventuality.

“He’s always got a plan, and he always has a backup plan; he always has a strategy. It’s not, ‘Let’s go out and hope for the best.’ We’ve got a tire strategy based on either this set of conditions or this other set of conditions,” explains Wilcox, before discussing Anderson’s mechanical abilities. “Running an SSM car at the brink, you have to prepare for the possibility of breakage, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody deal with breakage better than Eric. He doesn’t get bogged down in ‘how did this happen’, no, ‘Poor me.’ It’s, ‘What broke? How much time do I have? Can I fix this before the next set of runs?’ That’s the thing that constantly amazes me with Eric.”

Wilcox can cite several examples of amazing repairs in order to continue competition. But it’s not just Anderson’s own Miata that he’s fixing. Wilcox says Anderson is constantly helping others at events and between events with parts, advice, troubleshooting, even a little welding now and then. So, there’s a little tomoiku – learning and teaching each other for mutual success – there as well.

For that, for flawless execution and certainly his challenger spirit, Eric Anderson is the Spirit of Mazda award winner for September.