My Red Bull Adventure From the time the official call came through until the time I stepped off the plane in Indianapolis I did more day dreaming than I'd ever done in my life. I was going to my first US Grand Prix as a selected member of the...
My Red Bull Adventure
From the time the official call came through until the time I stepped off the plane in Indianapolis I did more day dreaming than I'd ever done in my life. I was going to my first US Grand Prix as a selected member of the Red Bull F1 Driver search and I was pumped. I kept drawing up mental pictures of walking down the front straight of Indy with my biggest competition surrounding me, and seeing that huge scene of what I one day soon hope to be apart of, F1.
My fantasies of Indy all came true, with the addition of another 200 surprises pilled on top of that. The exposure I received as a racing driver that week was like nothing I could have ever expected. Basically from the time I arrived to the time I left Indy two themes stuck throughout the entire week: We were treated as honoured VIPs by the entire F1 paddock, and we were filmed everywhere we moved. I don't mean as a group either. Red Bull had a documentary production shooting a fly on the wall show that captured every minute of our journey. The TV crews had us covered, from eating to sleeping to even shooting us as we were being shot by other TV crews. I must say, it was fun for the first night... but for every day after that it was the most mentally fatiguing activity I've ever endured. But on a positive note, we got a good taste for what the commercial side of F1 is about and I treated it as an invaluable training exercise.
Danny Sullivan, Maxim Sports Management and the Red Bull people had a full agenda for us over the week, and I wasn't going to let any opportunities slip through my hands. Not only was I focused for the obvious reason of wanting to be chosen as one of the final selected drivers, but also because the key tools that we need to promote ourselves to Formula 1 and the whole racing world were pretty much handed to us on a silver platter. And believe me, I saw an opportunity and jumped on it.
Indy was a complete success. From our big press conference, to the physical training evaluation, to meeting the big players of the F1 world, I walked away from Indy with a confident smile on my face. I knew that I left nothing on the table, and not only that but I felt I'd excelled in the activities and had begun to establish myself within the program in the minds of the public, the press, the organisers and the other selected drivers.
Indianpolis to Paul Ricard
With two weeks between Indy and the shootout in France, I had plenty to do to keep my mind at ease. The TV production company decided to fly me back to California for a few days to document a bit of my home life for the show they're building. It was short, but a nice to catch up with friends and family, as well as meet with a few potential sponsors. They highlighted where I grew up, interviewed my parents and Uncle Pat and also touched on the relationship between myself and Phil Giebler. It was quite cool traveling up to Jim hall's race track in Oxnard, where it all started one day for the two of us. Phil and I have been the closest of rivals for the whole thirteen years of our careers, but also we've remained very close friends. The media has eaten up on how we started racing on the very same day, and we've ended up battling wheel to wheel for wins all the way through. We definitely were two of the favourites as we boarded the plane in route to the showdown in France. Le France Paul Ricard initially struck me as the most amazing racing facility I'd ever seen. Through the week it lived up to my first impressions, and excelled well beyond them. Bernie Eccelstone recently purchased the circuit and in 18 months he's turned it into a race testing Mecca. Everything was five star, and the mood of the Red Bull Driver search lived on.
When the helmets when on, instantly this program was different to me. From then on I was there to show the judges what I could do and from the first moment I left the pits I was on it. Things didn't go quite to plan though. On my out lap the engine blew and I was unable to get any running the first day. I kept my chin up, I knew there was time to get laps made up and things like this happen in motorsport It was good practice in learning to be a professional. Unfortunately the next day the mechanical flaws continued: Stuck throttles, brake failures, clutches, gearboxes -- you name it, it happened. Initially I worried that I might have done something wrong, but the plague of problems hit everyone. It turned out the cars had never been put through the rigorous aggression of competitive, young drivers; they were purpose-built school cars. In the end though, it was just another twist thrown at us, although it was far from done on purpose. I think the judges turned a huge negative into a bit of a positive by closely watching how we handled the problems, the race team, and ourselves in a time of massive stress and pressure. By the end of the two days in the cars, I was happy with my performance. I had driven through the mechanical hurdles and lack of laps to be one of the quick, if not the quickest drivers in the final qualifying simulation. It was important, because slowly everyone began to figure that a big cut was coming. The Cut
When I was told I had made it to the final six from 13, and that four would be chosen the next day to be Red Bull's picks I was gleaming with excitement. I knew that my chances of being selected were even better now, but I also felt added pressure. I went to bed that night after a set of installation laps in a BSR F3 car feeling good. I'd been here before. I've thrived on pressure since I was a nine-year-old kid. I felt ready.
After a 20-lap run in a full-blown F3 car I was apprehensive and waiting a judgement. The other five drivers and I sat around a square table writing out reports on our own runs when we were pulled outside one at a time and given our result. I didn't know what to expect, so I just concentrated on filling out my report. Some quick, quick, accomplished peers had been unexpectedly cut from the first group the day before, so by no means did I think that my fast times made me a sure bet. When Danny Sullvian pulled me outside the garage in front all the TV cameras and amicably let me know that the team of judges had not chosen me as one of the selected, I shook his hand and walked back into the garages and continued my session report. Just like that, I was out. I felt the carpet fly out from underneath me: my Red Bull Adventure had ended. Only the sheer shock of the decision kept my emotions under control.
I wasn't selected because I didn't fit the final criteria. And what were the criteria? I wish I knew. What I do know is that I must accept this decision and turn it into a positive. Driver shootouts are very difficult, for both the drivers and the judges. What I've gained from the Red Bull experience is a tremendous amount of knowledge, exposure, experience, and courage. I know I'm a better person and racer now than I was before I took part in this Driver Search, but it's small consolation. The final decision not going my way makes me hungrier than ever to reach my goals, and I'm going to strive for them until they're reached. I'm grateful to Red Bull, Maxim, and Danny Sullivan for the opportunity to participate, and I want to congratulate Paul, Grant, Joel and Scott on being chosen.
-- Patrick Long