Spec Miata Champion Elliot Skeer earns a funded ride in the 2012 Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup

National Auto Sport Association (NASA) Teen Challenge Spec Miata Champion in the West Elliott Skeer became the latest aspiring racer to win the Mazda Shootout and join the Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development Ladder program class of 2012. An important springboard for seasoned enthusiast racers making the jump into big-time club racing, the competition this year pitted three fierce challengers against one another, with a full ride in the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup waiting for the victor.

The 17-year old Skeer is currently a junior at High Tech High in San Marcos, California. The A-student is preparing to pursue a mechanical engineering degree but has yet to choose a college. His racing resume includes a decade of racing karts.

"Without this shootout and the Mazdspeed ladder, the path to the top looks like a giant maze,” noted Skeer after his win. “This just changed my life and is helping me realize that it is possible to make my dream a reality and become a professional driver. I would also like to thank my sponsors; Rush Motorsport, Anthony Woodford Racing, and Pelican Replacement Windows. I can't wait for the adventure to begin."

This year’s shootout total prize package is valued at over $75,000 and is the largest in club racing. It includes:

  • $50,000 for running Skeer’s car for the season
  • $10,000 in parts support
  • A Mazdaspeed driving suit and helmet
  • Professional media training (courtesy of Mazdaspeed)
  • 10 sets of BFGoodrich tires, one set per race (courtesy of BFGoodrich Tires)
  • 10 entry fee waivers (courtesy of SCCA Pro Racing)

Skeer ran against SCCA Spec Miata Champion Elivan Goulart from Shelton, Connecticut and NASA Spec Miata and NASA Teen Challenge (East) Champion Nate Sparks out of Daphne, Alabama. All three had proven themselves on the track by winning a championship, so the criteria to move up via the shootout were more encompassing, consisting of motorsports business acumen as well as driving ability technical knowhow. The driving sessions were conducted at Buttonwillow Raceway Park using a Mazda MX-5 Playboy Cup Car prepared by Tri-Point Motorsports.

Each year Mazda invites a panel of outside judges to make the selection, combined providing a wealth of both on-and off-track expertise. Over a dozen professionals were involved in the preliminary business proposal review, on-track activities, or both. The panel consisted of:

  • Andy Bornhop – Managing Editor, Road & Track magazine
  • Peter Calhoun – Motorsport Program Manager, BFGoodrich Tires
  • Alex Cross – Owner, Alex Cross Associates
  • Charles Espenlaub – Professional Mazda racer, Rolex GrandAm GT
  • John Fabijanic – Engineering Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
  • Greg Gill – Group VP, Haymarket Publications
  • Eric Foss – Professional Racer, MAZDASPEED ladder alum
  • John Horton – Owner, Horton Autosport
  • Karl Koenigstein – Motorsport Engineering Manager, Michelin North America
  • Silvia Mammone – Motorsports & Sponsorship Manager, Michelin North America
  • Lisa Natale – Marketing Consultant, Playboy
  • Brad Rampelberg – Professional racer, MAZDASPEED ladder alum
  • Scott Shelton – Professional racer, MAZDASPEED ladder alum
  • Errol Tucker Sr. – Owner, GoRacingTV.com

“Each year I’m more and more impressed with the quality of racers,” reflected judge and Mazda racer Charles Espenlaub after the event. “Raw driving talent is no longer enough. All three of the finalists showed skills both on and off the track, and the judges landed on Elliott Skeer as the driver they would hire if they were running a team.”

Skeer follows in the footsteps of Andrew Caddell, Brad Rampelberg, Justin Piscitell, Nick Evans, and Scott Shelton, the five previous Mazda shootout winners. The Mazdaspeed ladder has been a critical part of the success of up-and-coming racers including Raphael Matos, John Edwards, Conor Daly, Joel Miller, Connor De Phillippi, Dane Cameron, Jason Saini, Todd Lamb, Eric Foss, Michael Cooper, Trent Hindman, Danilo Estrella, Adam Christodoulou, Sage Karam, Spencer Pigot, Felix Serralles, Tristan Vautier, Petri Suvanto, and Scott Anderson.