A few drivers have often started their racing careers on the short oval tracks and have subsequently gone on to have glistening careers in the British Touring Car Championship.
Rob Collard was one of the first having followed in the footsteps of his late father, Mick ‘Duffy’ Collard who was one of the great characters of the National Hot Rods, winning the World Championship in 1980. Rob then went on to win 15 races in the BTCC, securing the Independent Drivers Championship back in 2003 after enduring a great career on the ovals.
Other drivers that have gone on to race in the BTCC after starting their career on the ovals include; Matt Simpson who won the National Hot Rod European Championship twice in 2009 and 2011, Carl Boardley who won the World Championship four times in succession between 2006 and 2009, and Aiden Moffat who started his racing career in the Junior Bangers in his native Scotland at the Lochgelly Raceway.
However, very few drivers have ever gone the other way – starting their careers on the circuits before having a go on the short circuit ovals. That was until GKR Trade Price Cars Racing’s Bobby Thompson came along.
Having completed a few practice laps in his good friend, Pat Kiely’s 2LTR Hot Rod at the Birmingham Wheels Raceway, the opportunity came for the Essex-based driver to race in a Ginetta G40 Hot Rod at the Swaffham Arena.
Speaking about how this opportunity arose, Thompson said; “I’ve known Alistair Murray for a good few years as we’ve lived close to each other for a while. He’s always wanted me to race one of his cars and I think he wanted to sell this one, so it was good exposure for him having me behind the wheel.
“I really enjoyed the experience. The track was a bit greasy the first time I went out, so I found it quite tricky at first and was a bit disappointed with myself, but I soon got the hang of it each time I went out on track. Even though the car handles differently to my Audi S3 Touring Car, I feel I adapted quite quickly to those differences.”
The Touring Car star took three race wins on the day and a second place but admitted it was a shame there wasn’t more cars in attendance.
Given how much he enjoyed the afternoon, Thompson admitted he would love to have another go at a “busier meeting with 30 or 40 cars” in order to get a real flavour of the close natured racing that short circuit oval motorsport brings.
He even hinted at a possible outing in a BriSCA Formula 1 Stock Car but admitted that may be a bit trickier as he’d have to borrow a car off another team or driver, although it is something that has been done before when former BTCC star and former Renault UK Clio Cup and Mini Challenge Champion, Ant Whorton-Eales tried his luck in the popular Stock Car category with thanks to Ryan Harrison.
Thompson’s focus now turns on to the upcoming British Touring Car campaign which has currently been put on hiatus due to the Coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the nation and the world.
Over the winter months, Thompson made the switch from Team HARD to the Trade Price Cars Racing squad. A move which excites him and fills him with confidence for the season ahead.
“I was going to join them at the start of the 2019 season,” said Thompson. “But we didn’t start the conversations early enough and couldn’t get a deal together. We started talking again through the mid-part of last season and straight as the season concluded at Brands Hatch, I wanted to have a meeting with Dan Kirby and Andy Wilmot – who run the team.”
The Trade Price Cars Racing squad enjoyed a memorable maiden season in Britain’s premier tin-top racing series last year, finishing 11th in the Teams standings and fourth in the Independent Teams standings with Jake Hill also securing his maiden win in the series at Knockhill.
Thompson hopes the team can carry on from where they left off last year and challenge inside the top-10.
“The guys and girls at Trade Price Cars Racing did an amazing job last year,” said Thompson. “They were very quick and secured a few podiums and a race win. I really hope I can help the team move forward this year and challenge the top-10 on a more regular basis and also get more podiums.
“The official season launch at Silverstone went very well – I was really happy with the balance and pace of the car. There’s still a few setup changes I want us to make between now and the start of the season though.”
The 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship was due to start at Donington Park on the 28th and 29th March but due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the rounds at Donington, as well as Brands Hatch and Silverstone in April have been postponed.
Thompson admitted; “It’s a shame it had to come down to it, but the health and well-being of everyone must come before any sort of racing can take place.
“We were due to have a test at Donington after the season launch, but we decided to cancel that after the first few rounds had been postponed. There’s no real need to go out and do testing when you don’t know when the season will start and whether or not you’ll be able to go to those tracks during the season.
“We’ll book more test days once everything calms down and resumes to normality – I think you’ll find a few teams do that. We still need to make a few changes to the car which we’ll do on those test days before the season starts and when we do, I’m confident me, James Gornall and the whole team will have a successful season.”
Header image courtesy of the BTCC/Jakob Ebrey
By Jordan Hollands.