May is Indy 500 month in the United States, with a full programme of events leading up to the Indianapolis 500 Mile race on May 28.

New Zealander Scott Dixon has enjoyed better-than-even odds of winning the world's most famous motor race since moving over to the Indy Racing League from the Champ Car Series with the Target-backed Ganassi team in 2003.

And with three practice sessions under his belt this week he remains one of the pace-setters, ending up fourth behind Sam Hornish Jr, Target teammate and 2005 Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon, and Helio Castroneves.

Little has separated the four since the beginning of the week, Dixon's best time on Thursday (39.9451 at 360.494km/h) just 0.2607 of a second slower than Hornish's 39.6844 at 362.862km/h.

Qualifying begins today for positions 1-11 and continues tomorrow for positions 12-22. The final qualifying day for positions 23-33 is next Saturday.

Kiwi sets pace in pro series

Also flying the New Zealand flag at the Indianapolis 500 meeting this year are Indy Pro Series drivers Wade Cunningham and Matthew Hamilton.

Defending champion Cunningham has continued his strong run of test form ahead of the Freedom 100 Indy Pro Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the Friday before the 500, again setting the fastest time at a series test, this time at the Nashville Superspeedway 10 days ago.

The Aucklander lapped the high banked 2.12km Superspeedway in a best time of 26.24s to be comfortably quicker than teammates Brett Van Blankers and Geoff Dodge.

Brother quick to recover

Also impressing with his pace, this time on the other side of the Atlantic, is Mitchell Cunningham, Wade's 19-year-old younger brother.

Last weekend the younger Cunningham finished 15th at the first round of the 2006 European Karting Championships at La Conca in Italy. Drive of the day came in the third heat when he recovered from 28th place to cross the line ninth after being knocked off the track.

Italian Marco Ardigo (Tony Kart) was the overall winner from Great Britain's Riki Christodoulou (FA Kart) and Cunningham's CRG teammate, Jonathon Thonon from Belgium.

Cunningham's next big meeting is the Asia-Pacific Championship meeting at Suzuka in Japan over the weekend of May 27-28.

Single-minded kiwi pair

Auckland's Dominic Storey and Wanganui's Earl Bamber are back at Malaysia's Sepang circuit this weekend, contesting rounds three, four and five of the 2006 Formula BMW Asia single-seater series.

Bamber, 15, heads into the meeting leading the Rookie Cup points standings and fourth overall after collecting a fourth in the first race and a third in the second at the first round of the 2006 series in March.

Storey is fourth in the Rookie standings and sixth overall after two sevenths in his debut single-seater drive at the meeting.

Porsche has staying power

The Glenn Cotterill/Kevin Bell Porsche 911 Turbo 4WD claimed line honours in the annual Manfeild Four-Hour endurance race last Saturday - but it was close.

Both the twin-turbo Toyota Supra-engined Toyota Corolla Levin of South Islanders Peter Swaney and Craig McDermid, and a second Porsche 911 Turbo 4WD of Auckland father/son combination Mack and Ben Storey ran the Cotterill/Bell combination close, all three cars completing 180 laps of the 3.030km Manawatu circuit, with Cotterill and Bell just 59 seconds in front at flag fall.

The new Taupo Motor Racing Circuit hosts the second Four-Hour race of the season on May 27. Then it is north to Pukekohe Park for the Six-Hour day/evening final on June 17.

Lobb's hour has come

The One-Hour Enduro for New Zealand's thriving Formula First (nee Vee) single-seater class held earlier in the day was dominated by the country's top kart racers, with Whangarei's Caine Lobb claiming a narrow victory from Aucklanders Andrew Waite and Simon Evans, son of Porsche racer Owen.

The latter made a big impression, the One-Hour being his first-ever car race. Also punching well above his weight was fourth-placed Wellington karter Jamie McNee. The first of the old hands in the evergreen Volkswagen 1200-engined category, Auckland's Ian Foster, finished fifth.

And the winner is ...

Tonight is awards night for the country's motorsport community, with a black tie function at the Ellerslie Events Centre starting at 7pm.

Daniel Gaunt, Matthew Halliday and Clark Proctor are finalists for the prestigious Jim Clark Trophy, Emma Gilmour, Richard Mason and Dave Strong for the Rally Founders Trophy, and Shane Van Gisbergen, Earl Bamber and Nelson Hartley for the Steel Trophy.