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Dixon Proving Man to Beat in IRL


Eric Thompson / New Zealand Herald

At just 32 years of age, New Zealand IndyCar driver Scott Dixon is starting to cement his name in the record books as one of the best open-wheel racers in the category.

His peers acknowledge the Kiwi as the man you have to beat to win an IRL title, and in 2013 Dixon was again top of the heap.

When the chequered flag dropped at the last round of the championship at Fontana, California, Dixon had clinched his third IndyCar championship. His reputation as one of the most consistent drivers in the American-based series is certainly backed up by the numbers.

His three championship titles put him fourth on the all-time list and the 32 IndyCar race wins put him first on the list of active drivers and seventh on the all time winner's list that includes AAA, USAC, CART and IndyCar wins going back to 1905.

"All championships are hard to win and they are all different in their own way," said Dixon. "This year felt quite rewarding because I never felt we had it [the title] at any stage. We never led the championship until going into the last race.

"We dug deep and kept at it until we got it right. All three championship wins were different. The first one I didn't really know what the hell I'd won, the second one was a dream year getting married, winning the championship and the Indy 500, and then finding out Emma was pregnant.

"This one was different again; knowing that if you dig deep and you keep trying as hard as you can, it is possible to get back into contention and win."

With stats like that it's no wonder team owner Chip Ganassi has resigned Dixon for a few more years to be one of the leading lights in his Target Racing outfit.

Ganassi has been the driving force behind one of the most successful IndyCar teams in recent times, and has decided to swap engine suppliers for the 2014 season.

Dixon and his teammates have been shoved around various race tracks and ovals by Honda power for nearly 10 years, but will be propelled by Chevrolet grunt next season. This may not be a big thing for the uninitiated, however, for the bloke holding the steering wheel it's a different ball game.

Just weeks after being crowned the 2013 champion, Dixon was back behind the wheel evaluating what it was like to have a different engine.

"The testing went pretty well, but obviously there are a few differences with the Chevy engine," he said. "I think we did around 150 laps and it went really well.

"We had a few development parts from our team to throw into the mix and it all seemed to work out quite well. There are definitely some differences with the engine, but I'm sure we can make the most of them."

For the majority of us, an engine's primary function is to accelerate the car we're driving. Not quite so in the motor racing world - horsepower may have been king 30 years ago but these days it's all about driveability.

"A normal engine might have three peaks during its acceleration range, but with the Chevy it's more like a constant push. They also have a different way of approaching how you balance the power delivery with how the car handles overall," said Dixon.

It'll be interesting to see how Dixon, his teammates, all the engineers, mechanics and data crunchers deal with the new power plant next year. "We had a lot of input with things working with Honda and could suggest/help in the direction we thought was right.

"With Chevy it's more of a complete package, and their resource and development package is more focused," said Dixon.
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