Get to know Arrow McLaren SP: Will Anderson, Race Engineer
Will Anderson is the Race Engineer for Pato O’Ward and the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. As someone who got into racing at six-years-old driving karts, he has only known motorsport as a passion he wanted to pursue.
Following his college graduation, Will traded in his helmet for a job at Dragon Racing in 2011, where he took on any work he could. Since then he has climbed the engineering ladder at Arrow McLaren SP – eventually becoming a race engineer in 2018.
Let’s get to know him a little better:
Q: How has your job evolved through the years and how did you arrive at your current position with Arrow McLaren SP?
Will Anderson: “My job has evolved quite a bit. When I started at Dragon Racing in 2011, it was basically organizing and cleaning as a helper in general. They just needed people at the Indy 500 to help. I got a call to help in pit lane wherever I could with bodywork. That evolved into wiring systems engineering role, to a performance engineering role, and now into race engineer. I’ve started from doing whatever I could and now have managed to end up a race engineer.
Q: Was there one moment that you knew your career trajectory was headed toward motorsport?
WA: “Honestly, I would not say there is one specific moment. Like I mentioned, my parents got me into racing go-karts when I was six-years-old and didn’t stop racing myself until I was 21 or 22 and in college. That whole time, racing was kind of what I knew and what I wanted to do.
Toward the end of my driving side of things, I was very interested in what and why doing certain things made the car go quicker or gave it a certain feeling while driving it. That led me to explore the mechanical engineering side of it in college. All through college I wanted to work in racing, but it is a difficult industry to get into unless you know people. I was fortunate enough to meet someone through my years karting that knew someone, that knew someone, that worked for an INDYCAR team and that was eventually how I got started.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
WA: “This is a tough one, not going to lie. There’s a lot that I enjoy. For me, through the years, I’ve really enjoyed the people you get to meet with different backgrounds. Many different characters. I enjoy traveling to different areas and seeing different things that I wouldn’t be able to see. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have probably gone to Brazil or Canada as early as I did in my life and career. I’ve always been a competitive person, so the competition with your team around you and trying to do the best you can do and beat those other teams on the grid. Going into it with your “band of brothers” and the crew that you’re with is always fun.
Q: What have you enjoyed most to this point of the season being the lead engineer on the No. 5 car?
WA: “An easy cop-out answer would be our two wins at Texas and Detroit. It’s a cool feeling when you go into these races and win with all the crew, being such a team sport, and see some like Pato and the crew getting their first win in the sport. Seeing their reactions and being able to celebrate in victory lane and knowing as a team and group we did better than anyone else out there on that particular day, is a really rewarding feeling.
In INDYCAR, the competition is so tight, the teams are so good with pit stops, strategy, cars and drivers, everything has to be on point, otherwise you don’t win. When you do get that win, that’s why it is such a rewarding feeling for the entire group.”
Q: What should people know about you outside of motorsport?
WA: “Obviously, what comes first is family and friends. Then, I would say I’m a pretty normal person outside of racing. I really like to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle and fast pace that is motorsports. I do a lot of road biking, as it allows me to check out and think about other things for a while. Then I also like to hike, camp and explore national parks and have that ability to be out in nature.
Q: What is your proudest career achievement?
WA: “That is really difficult. I think my first win with a team I was a part of was Justin Wilson’s first win on an oval at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012. That was really cool.
Honestly, winning here at AMSP, we have won at Long Beach, sat on the pole at the Indy 500 in 2016 were both really cool achievements. Then, my first win as a race engineer at Iowa was also a cool moment. And, of course, our two wins so far this season with Pato and the whole No. 5 group and everyone on this team.
Like I’ve said, all these things are such a team effort, it makes it cool to be a part of the team and be a small piece that happens and see everyone’s hard work pay off. So, it’s hard to pick one, but all of these I’m really proud of and cool through the years to experience with people you become friends with.
Q: What is it like being in the engineering room at the racetrack and back at the race shop? Are you constantly crunching numbers and looking a data?
WA: “Back at the shop is a bit more calm (laughs). You have more time to work through the builds for the crew, analyze historical data and which track you’re going to, talking through with the other engineers in the room how to start and what we can do better.
At the racetrack, it is just different with the fast-paced environment. The sessions are a dictated time, with some sessions little time between, so it is cool because of just how quick-paced it is and how quick us as an engineering group have to analyze the data quickly and efficiently to make the best decisions from session to session at the track.
And yes (laughs), we are always crunching numbers and looking at data! We try to have some fun to mix it up, but for sure that’s what we do is look at simulations and analysis’s, numbers, squiggly lines, data. We do this at the shop and at the racetrack just have to make decisions much quicker at races.
Q: Do you have any advice for those looking to break into the motorsport industry and engineering?
WA: “There’s isn’t one method to break into motorsports and specifically engineering. I think, in our engineering room, I would say everyone has a different story of how they got into motorsport. You have to be persistent, network, show yourself to people by sharing your resume. If you get told no, that’s not the end of the world, just keep trying and show people this is what you really want to do. I think that it is a really great industry to be a part of and there are a lot of good people that I’ve met. It’s a cool industry and a unique job, so keep trying and don’t take no for an answer. Hopefully, we will see you either on our team or at the track!