Formula for success
Formula One Racing was without an American driver for more than a decade – that is until Scott Speed broke into the ranks this year.
For most Americans, the Speed break-through news was a good thing. But for Alexander Rossi, a 14-year-old driver from Nevada City, the news was both good and bad.
Speed’s accomplishment not only affected the Formula One driving scene, but also the Red Bull Driver Search – a program designed to find, test and support budding young racing talent in hopes of training American drivers to eventually win Formula One racing championships in Europe.
Rossi was one of the elite karting drivers in the country that advanced to the final stages of the Red Bull Search this past September. He placed third, missing his spot to enter the prestigious Red Bull training program by one place.
As one of the youngest competitors in the search, Rossi was looking forward to returning next year and taking control of one of the coveted top spots, thus inching closer to his life-long dream of driving in Formula One Racing in Europe.
But because of Speed’s success, the Red Bull Driver Search’s mission has been accomplished. Red Bull will, however, continue to run its Red Bull Junior team and hand-pick its drivers through a less structured system.
But Rossi, who excels in a sport where quick decisions rule, changed courses and developed a new plan to find his way to Europe. A plan that may not utilize such a direct path, but one that appears to be just as promising.
Three weeks ago, Rossi traveled to Sebring, Fla. and beat out 59 of the best karters in North America to win the prestigious 2006 Skip Barber Karting Scholarship. In doing so, he became the youngest winner in the scholarship’s nine-year history. Last year’s winner was 23 years old.
In addition to being identified as one of the best young drivers in the country, the scholarship also gives Rossi a fully-funded spot to compete in the National Championship Series. The national series, an entry level professional series, consists of 14 races, beginning at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey on March 10-12 and finishes at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. on Sept. 22-24.
“We were expecting to get to Europe through Red Bull,” said Pieter Rossi, Alexander’s father. “It was more of a bump in the road though (than path closing). We are still planning to get to Europe by 2008 – the 2006 season is set and we are already getting inquires about the 2007 season.”
The 2006 season will dominated by the National Championship Series, with Rossi also signing with Odyssey Motorsports to drive professionally in the FTR Pro-Series. Last season, Odyssey Motorsports was the championship team in the series and will sponsor nearly 50 percent of the cost for Rossi to drive in the Pro-Series.
Last season, Rossi competed in three professional race weekends and out of the six races he entered, he reached the podium four times. (Meaning a top three finish.)
Before racing professionally, Rossi made 77 karting starts and podiumed 64 times. And in a formula car, he has accumulated 15 starts and nine podium finishes.
Aside from the racing opportunities the Skip Barber Scholarship has created for Rossi, the marketing help and national attention are something he and his family are excited about – noting more than 200 new hits on http://www.alexanderrossi.com from race teams from all over the world since his win at Skip Barber.
With the racing schedule becoming more and more hectic, Rossi and his family recently decided to enroll him in an independent school program through Nevada Union. Rossi finished his fall semester as a freshman at Forest Lake Christian earlier this month.
“Will he have a formal education? Yes,” Pieter said. “But formal, as in going to school, was becoming too cumbersome. He needs to be able to be more efficient in his time. And at this point, we felt like we were putting too much pressure on his school with his scheduling needs.”
Now, Rossi will be able to fit in class work in between his hectic travel and training schedule.
Rossi points out that while he’s still one of the youngest racers in the country, in terms of the ages of those he’s competing against at the highest levels, these next two years are crucial.
“The time is ticking and each year is becoming more and more important,” Rossi said.
To contact sportswriter Stacy Hicklin, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4244.
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