Scott Speed has said that his third Red Bull Global Rallycross title was different from his first two because of the huge advantage he held going into the closing stages of the season.
The Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross driver has previously had to come from behind to scoop the championship, but moved to the fore in the summer months this season, and drove cautiously for the final three races as a result.
“It’s a lot different because with this one we had such a huge lead going into the last three races that it’s like, all we need to do is keep the wheels on the car, so it was a very defensive type of approach for both Seattle races and LA and that’s more nerve-wracking because then you start thinking about what could happen if you get hit in just the right way and something fails on the car,” he told The Checkered Flag. “Normally when you race you’re just pushing your way through holes and you don’t think about it at all but with this we definitely did so that was nerve-wracking for sure.”
Speed’s third consecutive championship came despite him not winning the most number of races during the course of the season – that honour went to his team mate Tanner Foust. Speed puts that down t0 a more thought-out approach, with the former-Formula 1 driver preferring to only bank necessary points.
“I play chess out there not checkers,” he said. “All season I’m always counting the odds, not always counting on what needs to happen and that’s I think why we’re always achieving.”
Speed’s championship was VARX’s third in just four seasons of rallycross competition. This year they introduced an all-new Beetle GRC and Speed believes the car is a huge step forward from the double-championship winning car of old.
“It’s definitely a big step and it has to be said everybody else made really big steps as well,” he said. “Our cars are really dialed.”
“In years past there’s always been some kind of handling characteristics that we’ve been wanting to change, I think we’ve got a really good handle on that now, and the cars are really good the way they are.”
Despite the step forward, Speed believes the biggest element of his team’s success this year has been a lack of mistakes.
“There was a couple of races where we outright weren’t the fastest car that weekend but one thing that we did do is we made less mistakes and at the end of every year we come to, the championships that we’ve won have come mostly down to just a lack of mistakes. We don’t burn ourselves,” he said. “The strength of the #41 car has just been the lack of mistakes and pushing when you have to push and not pushing when you don’t.”
Looking ahead to next year, Speed doesn’t foresee a huge rate of development for VARX, but he does admit the challenge from the rest of the field will be tougher in 2018.
“I think it will be a fundamental year of just trying to improve small things,” said Speed. “There’s nothing really that sticks out right now as there has been in years past that we really need to fix. The cars have been developed and they’re freakin’ mean machines.”
Any of them can beat us. Every single one of them can win and that’s the thing about rallycross,” he admitted. “We put all that horsepower, four-wheel-drive underneath these cars, and they’re all capable of winning when they’re running right.”