Team USA Scholarship update 2005-01-05

Miller Gains Initial Taste of New Zealand Formula Ford, Prepares for First Races Christchurch, New Zealand (January 5, 2005) -- This year's Team USA Scholarship winner, Slade Miller, has gained his first experience of the Stealth/Van Diemen ...

Miller Gains Initial Taste of New Zealand Formula Ford, Prepares for First Races

Christchurch, New Zealand (January 5, 2005) -- This year's Team USA Scholarship winner, Slade Miller, has gained his first experience of the Stealth/Van Diemen chassis with which he will contest the next two rounds (comprising a total of six races) of the hotly contested Talley's New Zealand Formula Ford Championship, beginning this weekend at Levels Raceway, Timaru, on New Zealand's picturesque South Island.

Miller, 18, from, Redmond, Oklahoma, completed almost 100 laps of the technically challenging Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park, near Christchurch, on Monday, making steady progress with a car which proved to be quite different from his regular SCCA Formula Ford-spec Quantum Mechanics Van Diemen.

"The biggest difficulty was getting used to the tires they run down here," said Miller, who won the 2004 Mid Western Division Championship. "I'm used to running on very soft, slick [non-treaded] tires in the U.S., whereas here they run on very hard, treaded Avon tires. It made a much bigger difference than I expected and it takes a different driving style to get the most out of them. For one, they use trailing throttle to get the cars to turn well.

"It was difficult at first," he admitted, "but I began to get used to it and turned some pretty good sector times. I felt quite comfortable and was turning some consistent times by the end of the day. It was good."

Miller has spent today fettling the car and making a few subtle changes in preparation for a test day at Levels Raceway tomorrow (Thursday). His busy schedule includes more track time on Friday, while Saturday will comprise one official qualifying session and one race, with two more races to follow on Sunday.

Miller, who arrived in New Zealand just before the New Year, also has found time to do some sight-seeing, including a drive west across the Canterbury Plain and over the Southern Alps, via the breathtaking Arthur's Pass.

"The big, green mountains, flowers, caves, rivers and waterfalls are all really pretty," he said. "I've heard that is where quite a bit of the Lord of the Rings footage was shot. It's beautiful. I also visited the beach in New Brighton."

"But now I'm looking forward to getting some more time in the car and to the competition," continued Miller, who has never before traveled outside of North America.

"I'm so grateful to everyone who has made this possible for me. It's a great responsibility to follow in the footsteps of great drivers like Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice and A.J. Allmendinger, and for them to continue supporting the Team USA Scholarship in the way they do -- as well as people like Doug Mockett & Company, Jay Ivey Engines and Dale Coyne Racing -- makes it extra special."

-jeremy shaw-

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