FROM THE ED­I­TOR

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS -

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.

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