Dixon excited after test with Williams
"F1 is definitely what I want to do," the 23-year-old New Zealander said prior to Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. "I would get back in the car today if I could. It was good to turn right again.
"Those cars kind of shocked me. It was unbelievable for the first 20 laps. I felt out of place, but I slowly got back into it. I had a smile from ear to ear all day."
Dixon races for the Target/Chip Ganassi team in the IRL and was the team owner's guest at the NASCAR race.
Dixon's test was at the Paul Ricard circuit at Le Castellet in the South of France. He was less than a second off the pace set by Jenson Button.
Dixon drove the famed F1 car with the team's current driver, Ralf Schumacher, and test drivers Marc Gene and Antonio Pizzonia. Dixon ran 59 laps, with a top time of 1 minute, 11.753 seconds -- fourth among the nine drivers testing Friday.
"It was definitely an experience," Dixon said. "It was a little too rushed for what we liked.
"We got there early Thursday morning, went to Groves to the factory for a seat fit, then flew from Gatwick Airport to France, did another seat fit and got in the car the next morning. We had a broken gearbox and was down for about two hours."
Just a little over 48 hours since he drove the F1 car and at a NASCAR race completely foreign to his open-wheel background, Dixon was able to draw dramatic comparisons to the technologically advanced Williams-BMW from his G Force/Toyota in the IRL.
"The biggest difference was the braking and the tires," Dixon said. "The tires last for about one lap. You have to go out slow on your out lap and then go as fast as you can on one lap.
"What you gain from an old set of tires to how much you gain on a new set of tires is like two seconds. It was enjoyable. We had a good day. Ralf Schumacher was tire testing and he had softer tires so we couldn't really compare each other's times. We ended up all right, considering we just jumped in."
The defending IRL champion also was amazed at the vast array of gadgets in the cockpit of the Formula One car.
"It's a mess," Dixon said. "There is crap everywhere. There are probably 40 buttons on the wheel. It's out of control.
"The procedures just to get out of the pits are different. You have to turn the car on, then the ignition on, then turn the engine over, then turn the engine on, then turn the gearbox on, then select first gear, put the clutch in, calibrate the clutch -- there are so many procedures, just to get out is a pain."
The real pain for Dixon came in his neck, where the driver experienced the tremendous G forces in an F1 car, with its tremendous acceleration, responsive corner and rapid deceleration when he applied the brakes.
"It's huge," Dixon said. "I lasted about three runs before my neck was done. You just can't hold it up. The acceleration isn't too bad because your head is resting most of the time, but the G forces turning and the braking in the braking zone, your head goes down and you have to slowly bring it up. The forces are way more than what we get.
"To shift every time, it's like somebody punching you. It's very strange. I thought it would be a little smoother with the shift. The engine is so nice with the horsepower, but whenever you change gears, it's like being punched in the chest."
Dixon loved the resonant tone of the BMW engine, saying, "It sounds very cool on the downshifts and the braking."
Dixon is one of several drivers Formula One team owner Frank Williams is interested in as a replacement for Juan Pablo Montoya, who already has signed to race with McLaren in 2005.
Montoya was not at the test. Schumacher was, but he spent little time speaking with Dixon.
"Ralf is Ralf, he was set on doing his own thing," Dixon said. "I think we spoke to him for five seconds. But the team is full of good guys who want to race, just like at Target.
"It's like every man for themselves in Formula One. I don't see what they have going on in general between the two drivers. They work together a little, but nothing to the extent of what me and Darren Manning do."
Last Friday's test was to get Dixon familiar with the team and the car. The real test comes when Dixon returns to Europe for a three-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona from April 7-9.
"Even the first test we did, I was very happy how we ended up," Dixon said. "I made a mistake on the first set of tires, but the problem is you only have one lap to do it.
"I'm looking forward to Barcelona. That's going to be a harder circuit to learn, but it's going to be a big test. Every team will be there. It should be fun."
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