Dale Budge is a sports writer for the NZ Herald.

Motorsport: New look but same target for Scott Dixon

Kiwi driver Scott Dixon will be hoping to win his fifth championship the year. Photo / Getty
Kiwi driver Scott Dixon will be hoping to win his fifth championship the year. Photo / Getty

The goals are the same but things will look a lot different for Kiwi IndyCar driver Scott Dixon when the season begins this weekend on the streets of St Petersburg.

Dixon, the four-time series champion, heads into the new season with a totally new livery on his car and vastly different package underneath the shell with his Chip Ganassi team switching manufacturers from Chevrolet to Honda and long-time sponsor Target moving in a different direction in 2017.

The 36-year-old has gone through some pre-season testing and has a bit of an idea about what to expect from the new car.

"The tub is the only thing that stays the same when you switch manufacturers," Dixon told Radio Sport. "The manufacturer right now is for the engine and the aero kit. The aero kits between the Chevy and the Honda are vastly different.

"We know some of the areas where we will struggle - probably the short ovals are going to be the toughest races we will have this year. Then it will be street courses and on to road courses - we hope to be fairly close on road courses.

"The kit looks very promising for the superspeedway courses, which includes the Indianapolis 500."

For years Kiwi fans have simply looked for the bright red Target-sponsored machine when searching for Dixon in the middle of the pack but they will have to get used to a different look this year with the team using multiple liveries throughout the season.

"The car in pre-season testing has been all white so a very different look," Dixon said. "It is the first time I have driven an unbranded Ganassi car and I think that ended a 27-year relationship with Target. It is unfortunate because they were the best sponsor in the business - great to deal with, some many fun events and things we were able to join in with. It is definitely a change for us.

"The car won't be white - it will be a branded car for St Pete so we will have to wait and see what that is," he said keeping fans guessing.

Coming off the back of a disappointing season - Dixon finished the year sixth in the standings and out of the top three for the first time since 2006 - he is determined to get back to where he feels he should be.

"It ended an 11 or 12 year stretch of being in the top three, which was disappointing because I think we had tremendous speed," he said of his 2016 campaign. "Looking at the stats and analyzing the data I think we had the speed to win another three or four races if we didn't have the mechanical issues, some strategy things and a few blunders here and there.

"It was frustrating on that front because had we converted a bit more we might have been challenging for another championship.

"In some ways in some areas we had got too complacent. It has been a nice reset - obviously a shift back to Honda so a new manufacturer for us.

"It is a year where there is a freeze on development for aero kits etc so we have to try and learn what people have had for the last three years.

"The main goal is to start the season strong. It will be a steep learning curve but we will see how we go."

Dixon still expects to be winning races and dominating the sport - something he hopes he can do in a place where he has never won before this weekend.

"I guess that is always the goal. St Pete has always eluded us but definitely a great place to kick off the season. It is warm in Florida this time of year so a nice way to start things.

"This year we have set the same goals and that is to win the championship and the Indianapolis 500."

- NZ Herald

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