Electrical Woes Dash Slade Miller's Hopes in New Zealand Grand Prix Qualifying Invercargill, New Zealand (January 15, 2005) -- The misfortune that has dogged Team USA Scholarship driver Slade Miller's trip to New Zealand continued today, leaving...
Electrical Woes Dash Slade Miller's Hopes in New Zealand Grand Prix Qualifying
Invercargill, New Zealand (January 15, 2005) -- The misfortune that has dogged Team USA Scholarship driver Slade Miller's trip to New Zealand continued today, leaving him well down the grid in qualifying and then forcing him into the pits just four laps into the first of the weekend's three Formula Ford races at Teretonga Park.
"It's been a tough day," said Miller. "Nothing has gone right and we have our work cut out for us tomorrow. The good news is that the car seems to be handling well, so I'm sure we can move up if we get the problems sorted."
The weekend's one and only qualifying session took place in extremely blustery conditions this afternoon, and ended with Miller posting a best lap of 1m 03.499s, placing him 16th among the impressive field of 33 cars.
"There was a crosswind of more than 20mph on the front straightway which made getting around the corners a bit tricky," related Miller. "The handling would change in the middle of the corner, depending on how hard the wind was gusting at that point in time. Then the car developed a slight misfire, which got worse and worse. The only reason I went as fast as I did was I got a good tow from Jayant Singh."
Today's 12-lap race started at around 4.30 pm, and was red-flagged after just two laps following a multi-car incident in The Loop -- a fast, left-hand sweeper which follows the long front straightaway. One of the cars involved was Miller's Team USA Scholarship/Doug Mockett & Company Stealth/Van Diemen.
"I was on the outside, trying to make a pass into Turn One, and three cars got together just ahead and started spinning," said Miller. "My only option was to try and go around the outside, but I ended up sliding into the gravel."
The 18-year-old from Edmond, Oklahoma, was lucky. His car was undamaged and he was able to regain his original position for the restarted race. Unfortunately, however, the engine refused to run cleanly, and he dropped back through the field before retiring to the pits after just four laps.
"The plan going into the race was to go for a good lap time, because that would move me up on the grid for tomorrow's race [the grid for which would be determined by a combination of lap times established both in qualifying and the opening race]," said Miller, "but the engine started misfiring right away and just got worse."
The team worked long into the evening, changing as many of the electrical components as possible prior to Sunday's schedule, which will comprise another 12-lap race in the morning followed by the prestigious New Zealand Grand Prix which will be run over 40 laps, with a brief break for refueling at half-distance.
Today, in Miller's absence, four cars enacted a thrilling battle for the lead before Auckland veteran Jason Liefting emerged to take the checkered flag narrowly ahead of pole-sitter Andy Knight, from Christchurch, who out-braked Australian Shannon O'Brien into the final corner. Queenstown's Marc Doran finished a very close fourth.