Motorsport: Dixon's perseverance pays off

By Eric Thompson

NZ IndyCar star moving into champs top five

IndyCar's Scott Dixon hopes for more success after a win at Pocono. Picture / Getty Images
IndyCar's Scott Dixon hopes for more success after a win at Pocono. Picture / Getty Images

IndyCar driver Scott Dixon's perseverance through one of his toughest starts to a season paid off last weekend when he won his first race in almost a year, at the Pocono Raceway.

Despite yo-yoing from race-to-race coping with myriad mechanical woes, and in a car not quite up to his Chevy-powered rivals, Dixon finds himself just 65 points off series leader Helio Castroneves, and moving into the top five in the race for the championship.

The Aucklander has his tail feathers up after the win, and heads to Toronto, Canada, this weekend for round 11 of the championship. The Target Chip Ganassi racing crew are quietly confident things might have just turned around last weekend, even more so in the knowledge Dixon and team-mate Dario Franchitti are back on a road course.

The Ganassi team have struggled all year to get their Honda-engined cars to match the speed of the Chevy-powered competition, especially on ovals. On purpose-built race tracks, and street courses, Dixon has managed to stay in touch, and at times challenge, the leaders but the ovals have been a different kettle of fish - until last weekend.

"It was a much needed win last weekend. I couldn't quite believe it and that's why I was having trouble getting out of the car at the end of the race," Dixon told Driven.

"I said to Chip [Ganassi] 'I didn't think we would be standing here today'. I think we've worked it out. Chevy must be getting their power from burning fuel because we were really good and could stay on full power the whole race.

"It was a good weekend. More so with Ganassi getting their 100th win, Honda their 200th win and me getting my 30th. Let's hope we can now get a few more and get our championship really moving."

During the IndyCar off-season Honda dropped the ball in regards to engine development, whereas Chevy piled in and wheeled out a better unit than the one Honda had just fiddled with around the edges.

After getting royally slapped in the opening rounds of the series, Honda appears to have upped its game. Dixon's decision to take a 10-grid penalty for an unauthorised engine change at Pocono paid off and can only bode well for this weekend.

"The development of the engine has been hindering us a bit so far this season. The new engine I got last weekend was much different at the top end, but there was a big improvement mid-range and that will help us a lot at Toronto.

"Our cars have been good on road courses and were great at Toronto last year. We had great speed there last year and I was running third fighting for the lead when the engine blew.

"I'm looking forward to the weekend's two races [it's a double-header], and hope we can get another good result and take a chunk out of the point's leaders."

The Toronto event has an interesting twist in that for race one the grid will form up for a standing start - something IndyCar doesn't do. Rolling starts have been the norm for as long as fans can remember and the cars haven't been engineered to cope with a static launch. The Dallara DW12 will have a similar, albeit very basic, clutch system to that of an F1 car which has two clutches on the steering wheel. One is for a percentage of where the bite point should be for and the other one is for the release point.

The right clutch is held all the way in and when the lights go out you dump that one and then the second clutch should be engaged. The problem is the clutch percentages don't relate to the amount of travel, rather the amount of pressure.

You'll either have way too much power when it bites, or too little, it's all a bit of a guess. F1 has a much more sophisticated system to cope with the vagaries of clutch mapping, whereas the IndyCar version is a more agricultural.

"Nobody has done a standing start in my carer in IndyCar. That's going to make it really interesting as the cars aren't really made for it and trying to get the right mapping for the clutch bite and take up is anyone's guess," said Dixon.

"They [the car] can do it, but consistency is going to be the problem. It'll be a bit like letting the clutch go and hoping for the best. At least we're all going to be in the same boat."

Race two of the double header is back to the status quo with a rolling start.

- NZ Herald

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