Scott Ronald Dixon is a New Zealand racing driver who won the Indy Racing League (IRL) championship in 2003 at his first attempt.
Although born in Queensland, Australia, Dixon moved to Auckland, New Zealand at a very young age and has always raced under the New Zealand flag. With the encouragement of his motorsport-mad parents, Dixon began racing karts before the age of 10. He experienced moderate success, but really caught the attention of the New Zealand public when he was granted a special dispensation to race a saloon car aged 13. New Zealanders cannot obtain a road licence until turning 15. Dixon was entered in a one-make series featuring the Nissan Sentra. He had an immediate impact during the race at Pukekohe, near Auckland. The young Dixon rolled the car onto its roof, and caught national attention when he struggled from the upturned car with tears streaming down his face, and a pillow strapped to his bottom so he could see over the steering wheel.
Such misadventure didn't deter the chubby youngster. After his Nissan nightmare, Dixon went on to win every series he competed in.
In 1994 he won the New Zealand Formula Vee championship, before taking the Formula Ford Class 2 series in 1995 with 13 wins in 14 races. In 1996 he won the full New Zealand Formula Ford championship.
Having won everything in his own country, Dixon moved to Australia during 1997, taking Rookie of the Year honours and third overall in the Australian Formula Holden (Formula 3000) series. He won the series outright in 1998.
With backing from a consortium of New Zealand businessmen Dixon moved to the United States in 1999. After an extremely rapid first test he was signed to Johansson Motorsports Indy Lights team, beginning a long management association with the team's owner, former Ferrari and McLaren Formula One driver Stefan Johansson. He immediately impressed with his ability to learn, especially on the oval tracks he had never previously raced on. He set a lap record when taking pole position for the Chicago oval race which he won. He was consistently fast throughout the year but experiencing five DNFs meant he placed fifth in the series.
In 2000 Dixon remained in Indy Lights, moving to the PacWest team. He took the championship in resounding fashion, taking six wins and seven podium finishes.
PacWest Racing graduated Dixon to its full CART team in 2001. Dixon immediately out-paced his team-mate, the former Formula One driver Mauricio Gugelmin. Dixon led his first race in Mexico for 14 laps. Just two races later at Nazareth Speedway, he won. At the age of 20 years, 9 months and 14 days he became the youngest ever winner of a major open-wheel race anywhere in the world. The victory was even more remarkable because the CART field at the time was extremely strong. Dixon scored championship points in 11 of 20 starts, and led the FedEx Champ Car Series in laps completed with 2,521 out of a possible 2,610. He won the Jim Trueman Trophy for Rookie of the Year and was eighth in the championship.
Dixon remained with PacWest for 2002 but it soon became clear the team was woefully short of cash. When it eventually collapsed Target Chip Ganassi Racing swooped, adding a third car to its squad to accommodate the Kiwi. It was his first experience of a true top-level team, which, with Toyota had a top-level engine supplier. Dixon adapted fast. He posted 12 top ten finishes, including a second place in Denver.
For 2003 Chip Ganassi joined CART teams Penske and Andretti-Green Racing in defecting to the all-oval Indy Racing League. A road racer at heart, with Formula One a strong ambition, Dixon was downcast about the move at first, rubbishing the performance of the IRL cars compared to the CART machines. But staying with a top team was vital to his career. Again, he adapted quickly, winning the season opener in Homestead, Florida. A tangle with Tony Kanaan in Japan left Dixon with a shattered hand, but he bounced back to take two more victories and win the championship at his first try. He also set a record with 343 consecutive laps led, a mark that will be very difficult for any driver to top.
However, the year ended on a tragic note for Dixon. Ganassi had recruited Tony Renna as his team-mate. The young American and Dixon were already close friends. But at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, during Renna's first practice session for the team, he spun across the track and became airborne in the course's third turn. Renna's car hit a post at massive speed and was shredded. The car's cockpit was split on impact. Renna was killed instantly of blunt force trauma to the head and chest.
Dixon's title defense was not terribly successful. The Toyota engine had lost its edge and Dixon endured a year making up the numbers. He did, however, have the opportunity to stake his claim for a drive in Formula One, when he tested for the Williams-BMW. His 2003 championship also earned him the right to represent the IRL in the 2004 International Race of Champions where he finished 10th.
The 2005 results were even worse than in 2004. Honda was the engine to have, the Toyota massively off the pace. Like Ganassi team-mates Ryan Briscoe and Darren Manning, Dixon fell into the trap of over-driving to make up the deficit. The trio wrote off or seriously damaged 28 of the teams cars in a seemingly never ending series of crashes. Manning was fired, and Australian Briscoe was lucky to escape with his life when his car became airborne and disintegrated after touching another car and slamming airborne into the outside retaining wall of Chicagoland Speedway's third turn. Amid rumours Dixon could also be sacked, the Kiwi bounced back to score his and the team's first win since 2003, the Indy Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International. Soon after, Dixon re-signed for a further two seasons with Ganassi.
The 2006 season looked likely to be a turnaround year for Dixon when Ganassi said he was changing to Honda engines. (Toyota later withdrew its IRL involvement). It appeared Dixon would face as much opposition within his own team as on the track after Ganassi said he would be partnered with Englishman Dan Wheldon, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner and IRL series champion. Known in pitlane as 'Difficult Dan' for his fiery temperament, Wheldon was seen to be Dixon's toughest ever teammate and the rivalry between them was predicted to be intense. However, before the IRL season even started, they successfully combined as a one-car team (with Casey Mears) to win the 24 Hours of Daytona. Dixon repeated his 2005 Indy Grand Prix win at Watkins Glen, and became the first man ever to win an IRL race run in wet conditions. At Nashville Superspeedway, he won the Gibson Guitar Trophy by a couple of car lengths over his team mate Wheldon. He finished fourth in the standings, finishing every race and just 15 points behind Sam Hornish and Wheldon.
Dixon is currently third in the 2007 IRL standings. He is yet to win, but has recorded three second place finishes, including the rain shortened Indianapolis 500, and has finished in the top five in every race so far this season. Dixon has been running at the end of the last 22 races. That streak ended when he was involved in a massive pileup at the Bombardier Learjet 550
Dixon had a secret test with Prost Grand Prix Junior Formula 3000 team. But ironically it was BMW, not Toyota, who gave Dixon the chance to realize his ambition and drive a Formula One Car. At the Paul Ricard Circuit in France, Dixon drove a Williams, and made a respectable showing during a one-day test. His times were not far off those of regular driver Ralf Schumacher.
However, a two day test six weeks later in Barcelona was not a success, with Dixon failing to gel with the team. He was not invited back. Although Dixon maintains his desire to break into Formula One is as strong as ever, few drivers his age are brought to F1 as rookies.
After attending one race meeting as an observer, Dixon tested New Zealand's A1 Grand Prix car during the sixth round of the series in Dubai. It is reported that Dixon was becoming familiar with the car, before racing it during the 2006 A1GP rounds in the US and Mexico, but he could not secure a release from Ganassi.
Dixon drove in the 2004, 2005 and 2006 24 Hours of Daytona races for Ganassi Racing. He won the 2006 race with teammates Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears, logging the most laps in their Lexus powered Riley.