When I got invited to be a competitor for the VMB Scholarship Shootout, I had no idea what was in store. The process was both exciting and intense. After submitting my application, I was selected by Steve Brisentine to be one of the final four finalists. I went to Buttonwillow Raceway in early November to compete in the shootout. I was joined by Enzo Prevost, Carter Williams, and Matt Cresci.
Once we were at the track, we got fitted in our cars. The FormulaSPEED car was different from the Skip Barber car, but the basics were the same. In the cockpit, I was used to the side view mirrors, steering positing, and gearbox. The main difference I felt was the downforce and extra weight on the car. After getting fitted into the car, they split us up into two groups. The first group ran their first sessions of the day. Each session in the shootout was a lapping session. The judges were looking at overall technique and consistency - not racecraft. While Carter and Enzo were on track, Matt and I were waiting for our first Q&A Session. VMB was looking for a well rounded driver. In other words, they just didn't want their next driver to be fast, they wanted him to be able to work well with the media & business partners.
Matt went first in the private media session. After he was done, it was my turn. I went in the World Speed trailer and sat down for my one-on-one interview. Overall, I thought that went really well and it was a good way to start the shootout. After both groups were done, it was time to switch. Now, I would be on track for the first time in my new car. The session went well as I was able to learn the track quickly and feel out the car. I set a decent lap time and got some good feedback. We took a look at the data in the trailer, and I learned what I can improve on in the next session.
However, the judges took us to the tower at Buttonwillow where we were to have another interview test. This time, it was a F1 style press conference. There were about 15-20 people there who were to ask us random questions. I thought it went smoothly, and I felt my answers were clear and "to the point."
After that, I had two more sessions before the shootout ended. The second session for me was great and I really picked up the pace. I ran a lap time that was about 1.5 sec faster than my first session. For the last session, I had to get used to running in cold weather as the track conditions were quite challenging. The temperature had gone down in Buttonwillow and the tires were cold as well. However, I felt like I gave it my all and overall the shootout was fantastic. Matt, Carter and Enzo did an incredible job as well. They showed why they were selected.
When, I returned home from my other shootout at Atlanta, I got a call from Steve. He told me that I had won! I couldn't be more happy! To have a ride next year is something special, but to do it with a development program and a championship winning team behind me makes it much more special.
So, what's next? Well, only time will tell. However, I am very confident that there will be nothing but exciting opportunities, new adventures, and close racing. VMB Driver Development is a great program. They want to make sure that their drivers are the complete package. I am excited to learn and experience this journey with them. World Speed Motorsports has won the FormulaSpeed Championship two years in a row. They are the definition of "teamwork." I couldn't be more excited to be under Telo Stewart's leadership. I can't wait to be on the grid with them!
It certainly has been a great year of racing! My 2015 season has me at 5 wins, 9 podiums, 4 poles, and a shootout selection. It is now time to enjoy the offseason! I will be on the track again soon for some testing, but my next race will be sometime in March or April. In the meantime, i've been busy finding a new fitness trainer, getting my competition license, and talking with the team. ALSO! Be sure to check out my new business venture, "Sugianto Snapbacks." More to come in December!
Until Next Time,