After nationwide scouting 13 racing prospects, including Speed, were brought into the program. In October '02 that group was flown by Red Bull to the Paul Ricard racing facility in southern France for a final three-day evaluation under the direction of former F/1 driver and Indianapolis 500 winner Danny Sullivan. The first time Sullivan saw Speed roar around the road course in a Formula Three car, he was amazed by the young driver's natural talent--the lines he took, his shifting skills, his braking technique. "The cars they were driving at Ricard weren't very good," says Sullivan. "In fact, they were falling apart. But Scott was the only one who didn't complain. And he was always the quickest."
After winning the driver search, Speed moved to Salzburg, Austria, to be near Red Bull's state-of-the-art athletic training center in Thalgau. Because drivers are subjected to gravitational forces up to five g's in the sharp corners of F/1 road courses, they must develop powerful upper bodies and strong neck muscles. To gain such strength, Speed works out as many as four hours a day at the training center. He also logs long hours on an F/1 simulation program on the television in the small three-room apartment that he shares with fellow Californian Colin Fleming, the 2003 winner of the Red Bull search, who races on the World Series by Renault, a European series a rung below GP2.
"All I do is race and think about racing," says Speed, sitting in his hauler in Barcelona, where in a few hours he'll finish third in his GP2 race. "I don't see why I won't be in F/1 starting next year. And by 2008 I think we can be very competitive. Who knows, maybe we could even win a championship."
That's a long shot, but for the first time in more than 10 years a U.S. driver is at least positioning himself to compete in the world's most popular racing series.