The teaming-up of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti at Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the 2009 IndyCar Series will see the pairing 'bring out the best in each other' and has the potential to become the most successful partnership in the history of the multiple championship-winning outfit.
That is the conviction of the North Carolina-based concern's team owner Chip Ganassi – who has in the past run such legendary drivers as Alex Zanardi, Juan-Pablo Montoya and Dan Wheldon in Champ Car, NASCAR and IndyCar circles – after the Scot and Kiwi competed alongside each other for the first time in the Nikon Indy 300 at Surfers' Paradise in Australia last weekend.
The line-up will also mark the first time in US motorsport history that a team has run drivers who have triumphed in both the IndyCar Series (Franchitti in 2007, Dixon in 2008) and the iconic Indianapolis 500 (likewise) for the two previous campaigns. Last season Franchitti stole the championship laurels from Dixon on the final lap of the final race at Chicagoland Speedway when the latter ran out of fuel.
“It's going to be a lot of fun to see these two guys as team-mates next season,” enthused 50-year-old Ganassi. “I think they'll bring out the best in each other. They are very similar drivers in that they are both calm, cool and patient, and are equally adept on road courses as they are on ovals.
“I know we have had some pretty good duos in our cars over the years like [Jimmy] Vasser and Zanardi, Vasser and Montoya and Dixon and Wheldon, but I think this one has the chance to be real special.”
If the early signs are anything to go by, Franchitti and Dixon have certainly hit it off well, and the former banished all doubts about his ability to return rapidly to the pace in single-seater competition by qualifying fourth for the 'non-championship' Surfers' outing – just two spots adrift of his new team-mate.
“First weekend back, it's gone a lot better than I expected,” reflected the 35-year-old, who had driven no fewer than five other types of racing car before returning to the IndyCar fold at the end of a year's absence following his 2007 title success. The eight-time series race-winner had conducted just a day's testing in the Honda-powered Dallara before making his competitive comeback.
“I knew coming to the team the car would be fine. It wasn't like, 'Oh my god, is the car going to be quick enough?' It was like, 'Okay, am I going to be able to come out of the box this first weekend and be competitive?' I wasn't sure.
“I didn't really put any expectations on myself, and it was surprising to be in the top three in every session and end up qualifying fourth.
“It was good to get to know [his engineer] Chris [Simmons] and everyone in the team, and working with Scott the first time, I'm going to write a book – 'Scott Dixon: The Truth' – because he comes across as quiet and serious.
“I know him away from the track and he's a very good laugh. He's really relaxed and it's a good atmosphere in the team. At the same time, everybody's working hard. You don't get success in any series without working hard.”