Two weeks ago Joel Miller traveled to England as part of the Team USA Scholarship Award. He raced in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Cup trophy at two famed circuits such as Brands Hatch and Snetterton. At the end of the winter series championship Miller was 10th in the overall championship with various top 10 finishes against some of England's top junior formula drivers.
The first weekend took place at Brands Hatch on the Indy circuit. Miller had his work cut out for him this weekend while learning the circuit, the Formula Palmer Audi car, and not to mention the stiff competition. This year's autumn cup trophy is part of the famed Mclaren/Autosport BDRC award which has contributed good talent from British FFord, FRenault, Formula BMW, and Champ Car Atlantic.
"The Friday at Brands went well considering it was my first time around the circuit," said Miller. Saturday had 3 qualifying sessions which saw Miller inside the top 10 and making progress. However, his learning curve greatly increased on Sunday because rain was coming down on the circuit which he had never raced in before this weekend. On top of that, Sunday's standing starts were going to be the first in Miller's history!
"It was a huge challenge on Sunday, but I learned so much. First, back at home, I have only done a few sessions of wet practice in a formula car, and that was not wet like it was at Brands. Also, standing starts were tough to get right in the wet," stated Miller after the weekend. His top finishing position was 8th in the final race of the weekend in the worst rain conditions during that day. "I will be able to take the things that I learned this past weekend, rain driving/ standing starts/ increased competition, back to the states for next year. I couldn't have asked for a better winter training session than that," added Miller.
The following weekend saw the winter series championship move to Snetterton which is near the town of Norwich in eastern England. Normally, this is the site of the worst weather, but luckily for the Californian the weather looked to be dry. Again, starting from scratch on Friday, Miller was hard at work learning the circuit. This weekend the competition increased with more drivers coming to bid for their spot in the award. Every session was an improvement despite the tires getting worse. He finished up the day just outside the top ten in overall lap time. Saturday morning qualifying looked to be going good as Miller was 5th on the grid before pitting for a tire pressure change.
"When my driver coach told me I was 5th on the grid I was so happy," Miller stated. However, while he was in the pits, other drivers strategy in burning full worked better which resulted in Miller falling just out of the top ten. In the following two qualifying sessions he was also caught out with various other issues of misfortune. Race 1 came early Sunday morning, with no warm up session scheduled. "I finally got the start right, and was passing for position going into turn one until I was forced to check up due to another driver cutting across my nose," commented Miller.
This resulted in many positions lost at the end of lap one. Miller pushed hard and was able to salvage 12th. Race 2 was a different story at the start. Having some difficulty off the line made the task to the top ten even more challenging. However, Miller made great overtaking maneuvers to recover an 8th place finish. While doing this, he was able to find more speed and set the 4th fastest lap of the race at a 1:04:88. This time would have put him 4th on the grid for the start if it had been qualifying. The start of the final race of the weekend was similar to the second. Miller was 15th at the end of lap 1, but put his head down to challenge into the top 10.
"Snetterton has good over taking areas which helped me recover from the starts. Many of my passes were around the outside due to the aggressive driving nature of Europe," commented Miller. He was closing in on his team mate but ran a few laps short in the end. The final results showed that Miller was again 8th which put him 10th overall in the championship. "I have learned so much over these past few weeks," recalls Miller. "Standing starts, wet weather driving, aggressive competition, and many others are only a few things that I will take back home. Also, I have been able to meet new faces in the motorsports industry, allowing me to broaden my contacts," he adds.
Miller now travels back to the states where he will concentrate on preparing for another championship winning year in the Pro Star Mazda series.
This opportunity would not have been possible without the help of Jeremy Shaw and the Team USA Scholarship. Supporters include Doug Mockett & Company, Champ Car World Series, American Honda, Snap-on Stars of Karting, Silicon Salvage, Dyson Racing, Integrated Performance Technology, Pacific Coast Motorsports, Andersen Racing Team, PitFit Training, iRacing.com, AutoRacing1.com, Metalore, Sparco USA, Cooper Tire, Cosworth USA, Champ Car Atlantic, Star Mazda, Buttonwillow Raceway, RACER magazine, FormulaCar Magazine, Pfanner Communications, Speedstar Management, Manifest Group, The Print Network and an array of past Scholarship winners.