FROM THE EDITOR
Been to the cinema yet to see Born Racer, aka ‘ the Scott Dixon biopic?’
If you haven’t, I urge you to, or if by the time you read this it has finished its cinematic run, then check it out via whatever streaming service picks it up. Or wait and ‘ buy the DVD!’
Though he has spent the best part of his spectacular motor racing career in the United States ( where he has won the IndyCar championship five times and the Indianapolis 500 in 2008), Scott got his start in the sport – in karts – here, and was one of the first graduates of MotorSport NZ’s Junior Driver licence system.
I know a bit more about Scott’s start in the sport and role the innovative Junior Driver programme than your average Joe because it is me who alerted Scott’s Dad Ron to the existence of it, not to mention me who got on my motorbike that night, rode home to collect my MotorSport NZ manual then rode back to Ron’s kart shop with it to show him... because the bugger didn’t believe me!
Under the programme, drivers as young as 12, could compete in any class of local motorsport up to but not including Formula Pacific, if they could pass a number of theoretical and practical driving tests.
At the time, MotorSport NZ had a strong, er, rural, look to its management team and with most farm kids riding motorbikes, quads and tractors from the day they could either balance, or see over the steering wheel, the cockies in charge reckoned they should also be allowed to do the odd grass gymkhana or closed road bent sprint before they were 15.
Kids as young as six have been able to start racing others in karts for as long as there have been dedicated Junior classes, of course. Scott himself started at Auckland’s Mt Wellington kart track when he was eight.
What the architects of the Junior Driver programme thought when, at just 13, Scott won his first race then went on to win all three New Zealand single-seater titles he was eligible to compete for by the age of 15, is a moot point.
But by then, obviously there was no going back, the cat was well and truly out of the bag!
While he wasn’t the first ‘ fresh-faced kid’ to successfully apply for and – after jumping through a number of theoretical and practical driving test hoops, an honour, I believe, goes to former V8 Touring Car star Johnny McIntyre – Scott was certainly the first to use it to help advance his career.
Not every 12-year-old is mature enough, of course, to cope with competing against adults in what is one of the most complex activities ( in business as well as sport) you can imagine. Scott is proof, if ever it was needed, however, that the talent is out there, the only difficulty is in finding it – or, more to the point, and keeping with the rural imagery, sorting the wheat from the chaff!
In our own sphere there are moves – which I would enthusiastically support – to give our under 15s something more serious than the current Kiwitruck classes.
Smarter brains than mine, apparently, are working on an upgrade or ‘step-up’ class using a 450cc MX engine. To which alI can say is, hell yes!
New Zealand has a rich heritage of success on the sealed ovals and road courses of the United States thanks to the likes of Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme in the 1960s and 70s and now Scott Dixon in the new millennium.
However, bar some sterling work by brothers Rod and Steve Millen in the ‘ 80s and ‘ 90s, we haven’t had anyone try and forge a championship title level career offroad in the US. If we get the class structure right here, who knows what someone with the right mix of talent, focus and of course money might be able to achieve...
NZ4WD editor Ross MacKay.