After spending 15 years on the sidelines, Zac Anderson got the call he had been dreaming of over the off-season that allowed him to restart his motorsports career. Since then, Anderson and his Nolasport co-driver Sean Gibbons have rattled off seven class wins and lead the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX Am championship by 95 points.
This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Anderson details how the opportunity came to be, the struggles of keeping the program on track through the COVID pandemic, and more.
What is your racing background prior to this season in Pirelli GT4 America?
“I was lucky enough to have a supportive step father who got me into karting in my early teens. He also introduced me to Jason Hart. We walked into a Viper Speed Shop one day and Jason was behind the counter.
“We told him that we were running a regional karting championship and had hit a plateau and he offered to help. He’s been my coach and mentor since those times.
“I went to college and did other things. My main focus for a long time was automotive marketing, and it still technically is with the Porsche Experience Center and being a new vehicle delivery specialist for them.
“But motorsports fell by the wayside. Prior to this year I hadn’t raced in about 15 years except for karting. I did some spec Miata racing back in the early 2000s and then went to college and had my career.
“Then Jason called me up this winter and said: I didn’t forget about you, I’ve got an opportunity, and I’d love to get you with Sean Gibbons.”
What was your reaction to that phone call?
“It was surreal! Jason had always said that if he had an opportunity he trusted my ability and our relationship.
“Jason was my first roommate out of high school. He’s been a really big help in my life, and we would sit and do Time Attack on Gran Turismo for hours and hours.
“He always said he’d reach out if he had an opportunity to bring me in and he’s a man of his word.”
Was there an element of proving to yourself that you belonged in pro racing when this year started?
“Oh yeah, I was nervous as hell! I started talking to Sean in January and this started picking up and I started to think that it might actually be happening.
“Then I got some sponsors on board and it was like, ‘Whoa, this is actually happening!’ I started signing up for as many club races as I could and got into shifter karts to knock off as much rust as possible.
“But I also remembered that when I was 16 and Jason was guiding me on whether I should go to college or go to Europe to pursue formula car racing there, he said, ‘You’ll never forget how to drive. Go to college and get a career going that way.’
“I trusted in that. Motorsports is the North Star of my life. Even if I wasn’t competing, I was still always thinking in the vein of racing.”
What has gone into keeping this program going despite the difficulties in the world at large?
“The supporter that I brought in was Digiture and they unfortunately had to pull out — no fault of there’s — but that was the main contribution that I brought in that made this happen for me.
“Two weeks after we swept the races at COTA I found out that wasn’t going to continue. I get it, these are difficult times and racing is the fat that gets trimmed off first.
“It’s been a lot of that, but Jon Scheurich, the owner of Nolasport, has been incredible to Sean and me. He is losing money running our car because of the rate he is giving us every weekend, but the support we are getting from Nolasport is tremendous.
“Jon just likes to win. The Porsche Fresno deal, which came on board for Road America, was basically a gift through connections with CJ Wilson.
“I’ve got some things lined up for the next race at COTA, and if that’s successful then it will give me a guarantee to be in motorsports for the next couple of years. So we have high hopes.”
What from this season has been most memorable?
“It’s a weird one because everything around me is so bleak and I’m experiencing the height of my existence right now. I’m experiencing my dreams.
“I am so filled up after every single weekend that I’m with Nolasport and Sean and all these guys. I’m a full cup! So COTA was a special weekend, sweeping the races, having no idea what we were up against. Coming away with two victories there was incredible.
“I think my best weekend and the best for the team and our exposure was Sonoma. The surface there allowed us to shine. Sliding around on that Sonoma surface ate up people’s tires but we were really comfortable there which put a big spotlight on us and gave us some awesome exposure.
“My battle with Jan Heylen, I watched that guy in ChampCar when I was in college so to be wheel to wheel with that guy was an absolute honor. My first race I was running the Jeroen Bleekemolen for a couple of laps.
“There’s just some of these little nuggets, and when you think back a couple of years you were sitting on your sofa watching these guys race.
“Now fast forward to this year you’re seeing replays and your name’s up there and the announcers are talking about you. It’s just an absolute trip and I’m lucky to be a part of the ride.”