Engine Trouble, Accident Blight Slade Miller's New Zealand Grand Prix Invercargill, New Zealand (January 16, 2005) -- Rapidly changing weather conditions characterized today's New Zealand Grand Prix race meeting at Teretonga Park Raceway.
Engine Trouble, Accident Blight Slade Miller's New Zealand Grand Prix
Invercargill, New Zealand (January 16, 2005) -- Rapidly changing weather conditions characterized today's New Zealand Grand Prix race meeting at Teretonga Park Raceway. Unfortunately, the one thing that didn't change was Slade Miller's luck.
The 18-year-old from Edmond, Oklahoma, never had a chance to display his true worth, as his first race this morning ended after just six laps due to engine troubles, and then his hopes of a solid result in the 40-lap New Zealand Grand Prix were halted just after the halfway mark when he was unable to avoid a rival who had spun directly in front of his Team USA Scholarship/Doug Mockett & Company Stealth/Van Diemen.
"There's not much I can say," said a bitterly disappointed Miller, after retiring with a broken right-front suspension. "Gary (Lovie) spun in front of me, and in the wet conditions, I had nowhere to go. I tried to find a way past on the outside but once I hit the wet grass, there was no saving it."
Former New Zealand Formula Ford Champion John Crawford's Motorsports Solutions team had worked hard on Saturday evening to try to solve the engine woes that had plagued Miller's car. Various electrical components were changed, but to no avail. The engine was still drastically short on power in Sunday morning's race (which was held on a damp but drying track and was red-flagged following an incident on the first lap), and Miller pulled into the pits after six laps with some ominous noises emanating from the rear of the car.
A broken starter motor lead and mounting was found to be the cause, and crew chief Richard Box again set to work on effecting repairs in time for the main event, the New Zealand Grand Prix. Once more, though, Miller found himself slipping down the order as soon as the lights went green. After starting 16th, he fell as low as 21st but had made up four places by the time the first 20-lap portion was completed.
The engine again refused to perform properly, but Miller's hopes were raised just a little during the brief intermission (to allow the cars to be refueled) when rain began to fall. A good start and a couple of incidents in front of him saw Miller rise to 12th on the opening lap. However, next time through The Loop -- the fast, left-hander that follows the long front straightaway -- Lovie lost control directly in front of Miller and his day was done.
"Of course, it's not the way we wanted it to end," said Miller. "The racing has been a struggle but overall this has been a good experience. I've met a lot of great people and I've been able to run against some good competition. I'm very grateful to have been given this opportunity. I really want to thank Doug Mockett and all the former winners of the Team USA Scholarship who have made this happen for me-- Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice, Memo Gidley, A.J. Allmendinger and Bryan Sellers -- and all the other supporters. For them to put all this effort behind me means a great deal, and I hope I can somehow pay them back in the future."
The New Zealand Grand Prix was first held in 1950 and boasts an illustrious list of winners including Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, John Surtees, Bruce McLaren, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and Keke Rosberg. Formula Ford veteran Simon Gamble, from Auckland, finally added his name to that list by passing the similar Australian-built Spectrum of fellow New Zealander Jason Liefting three laps from the finish to score a popular victory.