In his 26 years of racing Scott Dixon has won numerous races and championships, seen racetracks all over the world, and most recently won his fourth Daytona 24 Hours – the Kiwi has basically been there, done that. Except for racing at Bathurst. A week after victory in Daytona, Dixon is looking for success closer to home as he makes his Bathurst 12 Hour debut.
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In teaming up in the #76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 with Rick Kelly, another long-held wish comes true for Scott Dixon, even if it wasn’t initially planned as such.
“I’ve been trying to do something with Rick for quite a few years for the Bathurst 1000,” he explains. “It’s a perfect situation that kind of came together.
“I actually didn’t know Rick was working on the deal until a month before that we actually worked out that it was for the same car. It’s just one of those things that through conversion and over time it fell in the same spot.”
Scott Dixon and the Kelly family go back a long way as the New Zealander and Rick’s older brother Todd Kelly raced together in Formula Holden ‘back in the day’.
“I’ve known Rick and Todd for many years; Todd and I raced in Formula Holden together, Rick was a couple of years after me. So, I’ve known them for a while and the community is very small, so you keep in contact quite a bit. It’s always been a lot of fun with him, getting to know the team at the Gold Coast one-off international [V8 Supercar race] was a lot of fun – not so good for the teams because it was very expensive with crashes and stuff! Ultimately it was a fun experience.”
Despite being one of the most prolific international drivers from Down Under and a former Australian Drivers’ Champion, Scott Dixon has never had a chance to actually raced at Bathurst.
“It’s hard – there’s always a few obstacles that are manufacturer-related or the team. First and foremost, the IndyCar program is priority. This one wasn’t really a conflict – it became a little bit of a conflict when Honda came into the race late with an entry, because that car runs quite close to the HPD program out of America. But it is what it is. I think it’s more of a complication and there’s also the insurance that you have to take out on your current contract which becomes more of a problem.”
First order of business this weekend was getting up to speed with the Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3. In his first days in Bathurst, Dixon was already sufficiently impressed by the racecourse at Mount Panorama.
“I think, across the top, it’s very hard to commit. Especially in the car, that is always the hardest segment – it’s the car that you don’t feel particularly comfortable then that portion of the track can be quite daunting. But even coming down the mountain too, I think it’s more about really trying to understand where you need to be.
“Rick has been a big help, Jake did a fantastic job last year, and I even went around the track on Thursday with Craig Beard. There’s so much information to try and soak up in a small amount of time, but really, it’s just trying to get out there and run some laps.
“This [Bathurst] is pretty cool, I think once I wrap my head around it it’ll be a lot of fun. It’s kind of daunting right now.”
Last time Scott Dixon raced a GT was fourth months ago with the Ford GT at Petit Le Mans where the GTE spec machine bid farewell to sportscar racing. While also a GT, the car hasn’t quite prepared him for the Vantage, Dixon says.
“Not really. The [Ford] GT, it had a lower centre of gravity than the IndyCar; it was a very purpose-built prototype, basically, whereas this is a road car. One of the biggest differences between them for me is the ABS, it’s the first time I’ve ever driven a car with ABS which goes against anything you’ve ever learned. It’s a lot of situations that you find yourself, ‘Oh, didn’t expected that, but that’s cool’.
“[Going to] prototypes is a much easier step. The thing I always struggle with is going from a high downforce car to a low downforce car, so going this way is very difficult; going the other way is a lot easier, just because it feels more normal. They’re definitely on the opposite ends of the spectrum.
“I think, especially with single seaters, the response is very quick, it’s very firm. With [the Aston Martin], there’s a lot of movement, things that you’re not used to. The steering ratio is very big compared to what I’m used to, the power is delayed in some ways – it’s not even close to [what you expect].
“It’s about trying to snap yourself out of muscle memory, or what you think should be normal. The Ford GT program was quite similar actually to a prototype car in the way it was built, the way it functioned – this is very far from that as well.”
While an IndyCar racer first, endurance racing has always been part of Dixon’s ‘racing diet’ as he revels in the team aspect of it all.
“I’ve probably done 15 or 16 Daytona 24 Hours, four Le Mans. Petit was my first endurance race in a Ferrari 333SP back in ’99 – I was only 18 at the time – and that was an interesting entry into endurance racing. I’ve always done at least four endurance races a year, so quite a few.
“I really like the team aspect; I like that it’s a lot about compromise in the fact it makes it a little less stressful, especially compared to an IndyCar season. It’s very ‘one’ about that car and each new driver for that, you know, there’s no hiding. I just like the general partnership of endurance racing and there’s a lot of different aspects to it that kind of changes – it’s fun, it’s a lot of fun.”
After Bathurst, more GT races aren’t planned for now as the IndyCar season returns with pre-season testing followed by the first race in March.
“This is strictly a one-off. Possibly [I’ll do more], it depends, it’s just a case-by-case situation.”
Come Sunday evening – milk or champagne – it’s a matter of indifference to the 2008 Indianapolis 500 champion if he wins.
“Anything tastes good when you win, it doesn’t matter! I’ll drink anything”
Miguel Bosch contributed additional reporting.