Sunday, 23 February 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Scott Speed Interview

Last season Scott Speed made his debut in the Red Bull Global Rallycross series and was an instant hit. This year he's back, and predicting big things. I got to catch up with him earlier this week and talk motorsport with Andretti Autosport's newest driver:

Dominik Wilde: You had your first test this week didn't you?

Scott Speed: Yeah we had our first two days, not in the Beetle but in the Polo, doing tyre testing; that was good to get some quality seat time with the guys as well because a lot of the guys from Andretti, rallycross is new.

Dominik Wilde: Looks like it's going to be a big year. It's a new team, it's a new car. What are your feelings going into this year, because it's all new really?

Scott Speed: It is all new, but it's also all been raised to another level. It's a proper race team with proper engineers so it might take us a while to get going but once we get going we'll be operating on a totally different level and that's the way the sport's going so the way we look at it we're just trying to get ahead of the curve.

Dominik Wilde: But with the Polo, of course it's only for one round, but do you think that might be a disadvantage in Barbados?

Scott Speed: I think that it's definitely not going to be as good as our Beetle will, our Beetle's being developed and there's a lot of effort going into that and when that car comes out, it's going to be a bullet. But until then, y'know, it's not an ideal situation because we're basically running used cars that we're trying to learn from. So in all honesty, we have to learn anyway, so it's not a total waste but it's not going to be as optimum as our Beetle by any stretch.

Dominik Wilde: You're with Tanner Foust as well, obviously a really successful driver, how good is it to have someone like that as your team mate and also how much of an advantage to Tanner having someone like you in the team? How do you complement each other?

Scott Speed: I think that this growing so much and being more of a legitimate racing series is bringing more guys like myself with a motor racing background and I think that's going to help all of those guys, the guys like Tanner and Deegan and all those guys that have a little bit of motorsports background but not a ton. I think once the level of competition continues to go up and up and up those guys are going to be in a great position to learn a lot about racing.

Dominik Wilde: And you've come, like you said you've got a big background in motorsport with Formula one and NASCAR yet, with RallyCross it was your first event and you won it and then again in Charlotte, fifth in the points at the end of the year, were you expecting to be that strong?

Scott Speed: No, no, and to be honest the effort that we put in was very second class. This was a very last minute deal and it wasn't by any stretch a proper effort by any means. The effort that I'll have, the quality of car I'll have this year will be way better. I did not expect to go in and win obviously, especially after the first laps I took with the car because it's so different! Four wheel drive is quite a bit different to drive but after I'd gotten around that and I'd got used to that then it became like anything else and when you've driven race cars since you were 10 years old you learn very quickly what a car wants and how to give it what it wants. It's a logical progression to go through with anything and that was no different with this. Once I got used to the four wheel drive it was just business as usual.

Dominik Wilde: So would you say your Formula One and your NASCAR background helped you or was it all completely new?

Scott Speed: Oh god infinitely, infinitely! Yes, and it will be the same with the other guys that come in with my background so it'll all be the same result. I expect at some point we'll probably get one of the Andretti IndyCar guys in for a few races and I'm sure when they come in they'll do extremely well.

Dominik Wilde: But despite a strong background, the win in your first event must have been a huge confidence boost I imagine?

Scott Speed: Yeah it was a big shocker for everyone! Honestly it was a really neat experience. Since I can remember the X Games was always a big part of American culture, especially as a kid going to high school that was the thing everyone watched, that was really 'cool'. Racing was never really 'cool'. I grew up in high school and I multi-time national karting champion, won open wheel races, it was never cool though, so the fact that I was somehow able to in my lifetime win an X Games gold medal, that's just one of those really cool little 'definitely didn't expect this in life' kind of things.

Dominik Wilde: It's full time RallyCross this year isn't it and you're going to be back at the X Games as well this year. With it being full time, does that mean NASCAR is a closed door for you or will we see you back there as well?

Scott Speed: It's a big transition, it's a big cut of the cord as I like to say because NASCAR is the best way to make a living as a racing driver. Out of any championship in the world it's the only one that makes business sense. Any other real motorsports require some rich guy to loose a lot of money to race basically. Formula One's no different, they're now having to bring drivers with money. It's not news to motor racing. Motor racing is expensive and it's difficult to find sponsors for it. NASCAR was a place where the TV numbers were so strong and the teams got so much money from sponsors that as a racing driver you could make a good living and it was so much so that for the last two years I was able to run for teams that had no money but the series was healthy enough that just by starting a race the team could make enough money in prize money that covered expenses and therefore I had a job, a very easy job. So to cut that security, financially, that was a hard step that I didn't take lightly but after seeing how far the series had come last year and where it's going this year I truly believe that the sky is the limit for this series and with the television package that we just confirmed for this year it'll be probably the second most watched motorsport in America. I think that the potential here and how fast this series is growing and how much to everyone's liking, including the manufacturers, because of the 'cool'. When we go to a lot of races the fanbase, the people that are watching it are what we like to call the millennials - the younger generation that's looking to buy cars, 16 to 25, that's our fanbase and no other motorsports anywhere have that so therefore the manufacturers are very interested, they're very involved and it's paying off for them.

Dominik Wilde: It's something different as well, apart from the RallyCross in Europe which isn't really that big, there's not really anything like it is there?

Scott Speed: Like everything in Europe though, motor racing in particular. In America we entertain. You can relate, I spent may years over in Europe so I can understand the differences and the stereotypes of America and it's classic. NASCAR, super entertaining, cautions coming out with a couple of laps to go, it's built on entertainment and RallyCross is taking that to another level. It's more entertaining, and it doesn't last four hours. It's very much targeted to a shorter attention span and it's something that's really truly exciting so it has all the things necessary to become a very popular series here in The States.

Dominik Wilde: You were talking about your time in Europe, your former teams Red Bull and Toro Rosso have been doing rather well over the last few years - winning races, winning championships, do you ever get time to watch Formula One and how do you feel about how it's going at the moment?

Scott Speed: To be honest, outside of watching Tonio [Liuzzi] or trying to keep track of what my old team mate Tonio's doing and Sebastian [Vettel], it's hard to really watch anything. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't really watched a full race since I got back only because the time difference and I'm so busy here. When you're races 36 races a year and you're focused on your own racing you loose track of what else is going on, it's very easy to get in your own little bubble and it was the same thing when I was racing in F1. I had no idea what was going on in NASCAR or even in American Football or anything, you just loose contact.

Images © Red Bull Global Rallycross - Mattew Kalish, Alison Merion Padron, Colin Dyne

1 comment:

  1. Great interview, it's very interesting to see his mindset heading into the new season and also what he feels about the championship, his team and his previous experiences. I for one can't wait for the GRC to start again!