Dixon - world's fastest Manurewan (+photos)

By Bob Pearce

It was the sort of story that makes for a nice picture and then everybody closes the file.

A 13-year-old Manurewa boy was set to become the youngest person to race a single-seater car in a national motor-racing championship in New Zealand.

It was September 1993, and the Herald was alerted to the debut of Scott Dixon in the Formula Vee class at Pukekohe the following weekend.

Down to the Viaduct, where proud father Ron introduced his young son.

The chubby youngster with a face full of freckles handled the photo opportunity with all the aplomb of a form two pupil at Greenmeadows Intermediate.

And this cynical reporter - who had seen umpteen 6-year-old golfing prodigies who had never become Tiger Woods - wrote an encouraging story and moved on.

Yesterday, Dixon became the first New Zealander to win the Indy 500 - achieving the 15-year transformation from teen prodigy to sports superstar.

He will pocket US$2.5 million ($3.2m) and, more importantly, gain a place among motorsport's immortals.

The weekend after Dixon's first Herald interview, there were already signs that this was not a youngster to forget about.

He qualified well, raced well, and impressed everyone with his ability to make use of drafting - a skill essential in car racing, but one that usually takes karters some time to learn.

Fast forward four or five years to the Melbourne Grand Prix and the support race pits for Formula Holden cars.

Dixon is driving for Simon Hardwidge's champion team after forging through the New Zealand classes and taking his teenage talent across the Tasman.

The chubby youngster has become lean and fit, and his talent is impressing even the Aussies. He wins the championship and a chance to drive in V8 Supercars, but his heart is in single-seaters and he leaves the Holden-Ford battle to former rivals such as Todd Kelly.

P.J. Johnston and the enthusiasts who provided the financial backing for him to race in the US eased the way for his talent to be realised and Kenny Smith used his contacts to open doors.

Throughout it all Dixon remained his own man - polite, but never interested in the hype.

When he went to America, he was more interested in driving and winning than talking about it.

He drove and won, and the media learned to respect him for that.

His employer, Chip Ganassi, appreciated the understated humour and refreshing candour. The wins spoke volumes.

Mum Glenys was still a reluctant watcher when her son took to the high-speed ovals, as she had been when he first raced at Pukekohe.

There were setbacks and near-misses, such as last year's fuel miscalculation that cost him the Indycar championship, but all those were forgotten as he celebrated the Indy 500 victory yesterday with the traditional drink of milk.

It's a far cry from the Mt Wellington kart track, on industrial wasteland, where Dixon learned his trade.

But even though the Aussies are already claiming him as Brisbane-born, our latest hero remains a champion Kiwi.

- NZ Herald

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