DIXON'S BLOG: HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING
Ganassi Racing's IZOD IndyCar Series driver Scott Dixon will be blogging
exclusively for racer.com throughout the 2012 season. -Ed.
So here it is,
my first blog for RACER, and it coincides with what we all expect to be
an exciting new era for the IZOD IndyCar Series. I'm hoping that Target Chip
Ganassi Racing is as strong as ever but at this stage it's hard to tell. What I
do know for sure is that, in terms of operating, Chip's team has been strengthened.
The Target team and the second team with Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball are
communicating really well, and I think that improved interaction between us all
can only be a huge benefit in terms of how quickly we make progress with the
I think this
year will be really interesting for the series as a whole and the fans are sure
to appreciate that a lot. We had the same car for eight years, and people had
come to just expect Ganassi vs. Penske at the front, with Andretti Autosport
and a couple of others chasing hard behind. Well, the new car and engine
package gives us teams a lot of unknowns, so I can only imagine how much it
throws things up in the air for the fans. To be totally honest, that's what the
IZOD IndyCar Series was crying out for.
Given how much
is new, there will be reliability issues for everyone, I'm sure, so for each
team the important things will be to 1) reduce the number of potential problems
preseason, and 2) minimize the effect of the problems when they hit you during
a race weekend. But no one is perfect and so I expect reliability to be one of
the keys to the 2012 championship. When I won my first IndyCar championship in
2003, I failed to finish six races and yet the last few years it's been very
different: the cars were rock-solid reliable and the champion finished all – or
almost all – the races.
are new rules, especially radically new ones like we'll see this year, some
people look at it as everyone's starting from the same level so it will mix up
the field – no one will have a major advantage. And then there's the other side
of the argument, which is that new rules actually emphasize the difference
between the best teams and the also-rans. Well, that second point of view is
how I see it: Typically, the big teams have the resources – human and financial
– to get their heads around the new issues quicker. If I'm right on that, then
it's a good thing for us at Team Target, because we have a great team, as we've
proven. And if any one engine dominates, I hope it will be Honda.
The new era has
certainly changed the shape of our winter. Some people are even moaning because
they've had to go back to long hours, but not me. That's how it used to be. In
my first year with Chip, 2002, I did 50 test days, whereas last season I did
six! So although my December, January and February have been pretty chaotic, as
someone who loves his job, I've got to say, it's been good chaos and it's great
to be in the car a lot more.
is so much more advanced on this car and it sparks our interest after being
stuck in a rut the last few years. It's not just the engineers and mechanics
who have gained an extra mental challenge: there's loads more data for us
drivers to sift through, too. With the old car, we'd arrive at a track and know
already what suspension geometries we wanted to use, what dampers, etc. In 2012
race weekends, there are going to be big changes which need to be investigated
quickly to try and analyze what will give you gains and what won't. That even
includes tuning the engine mapping and throttle response to suit a driver's
particular style. What we can't do is play with the ECU – which is a good
thing, since it would open up the possibilities of traction control, and we
went through all that controversy in the CART days.
The handling of
the DW12, as you'll have read, is very different from the old car but I'm not
sure anyone's really laid it on the line yet and certainly no team has really
explored its potential. For example, until the last test, every test I'd done
was a Honda test, so all the Honda teams could see the data. That being the
case, there's no way we were going to run all the stuff we have planned for the
year ahead! And I don't think I've run on a set of 2012 tires yet, plus we did most
of our testing on a half-tank of fuel. So, as I said before, there are a lot of
unknowns, and we're really only scratching the surface of this car at the
moment. Still, from what I've felt, I think on road courses this car is going
to be fine. Anyway, being in a team like Ganassi, I'm pretty confident we can
get on top on any problems that might occur.
Ovals are much
more of an unknown at the moment. While I've done a lot of oval testing, at
that time we didn't have all the pieces we do now and those tests were almost
irrelevant in terms of tuning: They were more about giving Dallara and IndyCar
an idea of what we needed to do to improve the car for everyone and set the
baseline spec. It was difficult to drive, I can tell you that. But Graham and
Charlie tested at Fontana this week and they were very positive about the car's
handling, so I think big strides have been made. The thing I like about the new
car and the new rules is that there is a much bigger range of adjustability, so
there will be a greater performance difference between cars at different points
in any given stint. In the previous car, we were so restricted by the rules, so
the cars always seemed to be running similar spec throughout the field and
throughout a stint. In my opinion, that created dumbed-down
racing that didn't allow the best drivers and teams to show their advantage. If
anyone could drive it, what was the point?
With the new
car, there will be far more variables, a wider range of setups that make you
stronger in traffic or stronger running alone, or make your car great on a full
tank of fuel and fresh tires but edgy at the end of a stint, or vice versa.
That variety of approaches creates passing, so I think the oval races are going
to be exciting.
for that is that the amount of draft effect you get with the DW12 is huge and
I'm not sure why that is. In the old car, you'd get behind someone and just
maybe you'd go up one gear to tow past. But, in a test, running with Tony
Kanaan, I pulled up behind him in fourth and then had to quickly go to fifth
and sixth to avoid hitting the limiter. However, in the turns, it was very hard
to follow – and actually that's true in road course trim, too. At Sebring in
Turn 8, the fast left, I found that if I got behind someone the front just
washed out. I'm sure that will improve once we work out the mechanical side of
the car, but between the aero characteristics and the carbon brakes, I think it
will be easy to make mistakes in the DW12 and it will be tough to race.
blocking rule hasn't really been defined yet. For the sake of the fans, we must
make sure we have races, not processions; in 2012, there will be more eyes on
the IZOD IndyCar Series than for a long time, so let's give people a show to
get excited about and lure them back for the next race and the next race.
for reading. I'll get back to you just before the season starts when we'll have
a clearer picture of where we stand. I think we can get the Target cars up
front, but I'm hoping it will be the No. 9 rather than the 10 that's right
at the front. I think Dario has been a bit greedy the last few years. ;-)