INVERCARGILL, New Zealand--Rapidly changing weather conditions at Teretonga, the world's most southerly race track, made life difficult for the huge field of over 30 closely matched Formula Ford cars taking part in today's preliminary practice ...
INVERCARGILL, New Zealand--Rapidly changing weather conditions at Teretonga, the world's most southerly race track, made life difficult for the huge field of over 30 closely matched Formula Ford cars taking part in today's preliminary practice sessions for this weekend's first round of the Talley's New Zealand International Formula Ford Championship. Nevertheless, the two patriotically liveried Van Diemen cars of Team USA Scholarship winners A.J. Allmendinger and Bryan Sellers continued to be in the thick of the action in preparation for Sunday's prestigious New Zealand Grand Prix.
In between the rain showers, Sellers, 19, from Centerville, Ohio, posted unofficially the second fastest time at 1:03.1--a mere 0.2 of a second slower than one of the local favorites, Simon Richards.
"I think we're in pretty good shape," said Sellers. "We'll make a few changes to the car for qualifying tomorrow, and hopefully we'll be able to go a bit better. But it's tough. The competition is intense and there are so many cars. You can't go two laps without hitting traffic. It's unreal!"
Allmendinger, who was slightly the quicker of the two Americans on Wednesday when they tested at Levels Raceway, Timaru, in preparation for next weekend's race, didn't fare quite so well today at Teretonga, spinning off in the rain during the first of four brief practice sessions.
"It was like a monsoon," said Allmendinger, 20, from Hollister, Calif. "I was just cruising along, trying to learn the track, and a few of the fast guys came past me, then Bryan, and all of a sudden I just aquaplaned off the road. I hit the tire barrier pretty hard."
The damage meant that Allmendinger missed out on the dry second period of practice, although the Canterbury Racing School/Crawford Services team repaired the car in time for more practice later in the afternoon. Allmendinger then worked his way down to 1:03.7, despite some difficulty caused by a bent steering shaft ... which will be repaired in time for all-important Saturday qualifying.
"The steering was so heavy, I felt like I was driving a bulldozer out there," he said. "I guess I need to work on my wet-weather driving, but we should be OK for tomorrow."
Support for the Team USA Scholarship has been provided by CART, Steve and Christine Horne, American Honda, The Craig Company, Klein Tools, Las Vegas Karting Center, Road Racing Drivers Club, Sparco USA, Skip Barber Racing, Jim Russell Racing Drivers School and Racer.