Slade Miller Claims Top-10 Finish in His First-Ever Overseas Race
Timaru, New Zealand (January 8, 2005) -- A disappointing day for Team USA Scholarship driver Slade Miller ended in respectable fashion as he overcame a poor start to salvage a ninth-place finish in the first of three Talley's New Zealand Formula Ford Championship races to be held this weekend at Timaru International Motor Raceway.
"I was reasonably pleased with the result from the standpoint that I knew I didn't have a car that was capable of getting to the front in a very competitive field," said Miller, who struggled in the race with excessive understeer which meant he was unable to extract even close to the full potential of his car.
After two days of testing in dry and reasonably warm conditions, Saturday dawned cool and wet. A steady rain had abated by mid-morning but the track was still predominantly wet when the 22 cars ventured out for the weekend's lone 20-minute qualifying session. Miller had no prior experience of his Stealth/Van Diemen in the wet, and it soon became apparent that his setup was not working. After a quick spin which brought out the red flags, Miller, 18, from Edmond, Oklahoma, put his head down and tried his best to overcome the twin handicaps of the inclement weather and too much understeer.
"Conditions were difficult, with the track progressively drying," related Miller, "but we went with too conservative a setup and just didn't have the grip we expected."
Miller started the afternoon's 12-lap race from 11th on the grid, but his first-ever experience of a standing start did not go well -- "I just didn't get a good launch off the line; I think I let the clutch out too fast," he admitted -- and he completed the first lap in 15th place. Still, Miller once again applied himself to the task, and by the finish had worked his way through to ninth.
"It was a decent finish," he said, "and at least we didn't get caught up in any carnage so now we can concentrate on trying to make the car faster for tomorrow's races. It's difficult with the weather conditions varying so much, but hopefully we can improve the car and then make some progress toward the front."
Funding for this year's scholarship has been provided by Doug Mockett & Company, a Torrance, California-based supplier of "Fine Architectural Hardware For Your Fine Furniture," Champ Car team owner Dale Coyne, plus former Team USA Scholarship winners Rice, Vasser, Herta, Gidley, Allmendinger and former Lynx Racing Toyota Atlantic Championship standout Bryan Sellers (2001). In addition, Portland, Oregon-based Ivey Engines has provided the motive power for Miller's Stealth Van Diemen, and he is equipped with the world renowned Sparco racewear.
Results (12 laps): 1 Shannon O'Brien (AUS), Van Diemen RF03, 13m 22.646s, 80.195 mph; 2 Andy Knight (NZ), Stealth/Van Diemen Evo2, +3.7985s; 3 Hamish Cross (NZ), Stealth/Van Diemen; 4 Jason Liefting (NZ), Spectrum 010; 5 Jayant Singh (NZ), Van Diemen RF92; 6 Simon Gamble (NZ), Spectrum 010; 9 Slade Miller (USA), Stealth/Van Diemen. Fastest lap: O'Brien, 1m 06.088s, 81.165mph.