The Scotsman Leads the GTD Class in the WeatherTech Championship, Has Driven in the Michelin Pilot Challenge and Prototype Challenge This Year and Co-Owns Numerous Mazda MX-5 Cup Cars
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Stevan McAleer marks his weekend race schedules with colorful Sharpie ink. Pink for one series, red for another, blue for still another. When he arrived at VIRginia International Raceway last year, his entire schedule was coated in colors.
“I had GT4, LMP3, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and my MX-5 Cup team,” McAleer recalled. “I just circled everything. There was literally a 15-minute window in between.”
Welcome to one racer’s nonstop life. Team co-owner, driving coach, driver in several series, and – with two races remaining in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season – the championship leader in the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class.
Race weekends aren’t the only days organized by color. Every hour of every day is booked. When McAleer isn’t co-driving the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 in GTD, he’s been in the No. 28 RS1 Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport for a win and two second-place finishes this year in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. While he’s cut back from racing fulltime in the IMSA Prototype Challenge, he still hops into one of the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) cars on occasion.
And, in his first try at GTD, he’s leading the championship.
“What an experience it’s been,” McAleer said. “I’m not going to say it’s an easy swap around to jump from the Mercedes to the Porsche to the LMP3 car, but I’ve been doing it long enough now that I know the car.”
With only VIR on Aug. 28 and Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Oct. 1 remaining on the 2022 schedule, McAleer leads Jan Heylen and Ryan Hardwick by 40 points for the GTD drivers’ championship.
Chasing His Dream for a Quarter Century
McAleer’s journey isn’t one that began this year. It’s one that began when a 12-year-old kid saw his dream and began chasing it.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years now, and every morning there’s more excitement,” McAleer said. “There’s no loss of dedication or commitment to this.”
In the midst of the GTD run and his other driving duties, the 37-year-old Scotsman has his other color-coded responsibilities. The team he co-owns with Chad McCumbee in the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires demands attention, and then there’s his roster of students. As many professional racers know, sharing knowledge is a rewarding and profitable extension of the craft.
“Unless you’re a factory driver, you make your money in coaching,” McAleer said. “That’s where the money is. The fact that I’ve been able to drive different cars in different series has helped my coaching career. It’s quite clear that I can drive any car, and that’s really boosted the coaching.”
His journey began, as racing careers often do, with a go-kart. When McAleer was 10, he joined a group of friends at a kart track in Glasgow. Just for laughs, of course.
“I think I hurt five of them,” he joked. “I was driving them into the wall. I cried because I got a black flag and didn’t know what it was for. I had an absolute blast. It was legit hilarious.”
By 12, though, he was racing karts seriously. Then a familiar obstacle entered the picture: money. Can’t race without it, can’t earn it when you’re 12. Through one of his other current ventures – a karting series in New York – McAleer understands the passion and difficulties faced by young drivers.
“It’s not necessarily the kids with the talent that make it,” he said. “It’s the kids with the passion. I’ve noticed that around the age of 14, 15, 16 or 17, if it’s not going their way, as is often the case with money, 99 percent of the drivers quit. They’ve been so excited about it for years, and then they stop. When I got to that age, I had no care in the world. I just wanted to drive race cars.”
Across the Pond for New Opportunities
With his heart set on reaching the British Touring Car Championship, he ended up instead with a Skip Barber scholarship. Off to the U.S. he went, his plans for sports cars put aside for the time being. Single seaters it would be.
“I loved it,” he said. “I went to Sebring and did my two-day test, then I ran the Skip Barber Nationals in ‘07. I didn’t know the company I was with at the time, but I raced with Joel Miller, Ricky Taylor, Josef Newgarden, Gabby Chaves, Conor Daly and Connor De Phillippi. I had no idea who these kids were. I was eight years older than them, just wanting to be a race car driver. It was a pretty good group of kids.”
The Skip Barber experience led to an offer to coach at a karting facility in New York. “At the time, I was working in a supermarket,” McAleer said. “Sounded like a no-brainer.”
Starting salary was $18K a year. He roomed with a friend from his Skip Barber days.
“I had no social security number, no driver’s license, no car, no income,” he said. “I could barely scrape through the week, but I was having such a blast.”
That’s where the passion found new form. He started coaching and racing simultaneously, eventually landing a race with CJ Wilson Racing and an offer to run the Mazda MX-5 Cup in 2012. Ten years and countless colorful schedules later, he’s running for a WeatherTech Championship title despite not yet winning a GTD race this season.
“It’s a pleasant surprise for all of us that we’re in the position we’re in,” McAleer said. “You could say we got lucky at Daytona and Sebring (both podium finishes), but you can’t say we’re lucky after eight events. We’re in the mix and fighting hard. The car is getting better, pit stops are getting better, and I’m getting better in the car.”
Perhaps that’s the key to succeeding in this hectic game. Do all you can, whenever you can, and never give up.
“I love it,” McAleer said. “It’s what I’ve always dreamed of doing. I’m going nowhere in a hurry.”