The 2016 Silverstone weekend for the VW Racing Cup will be remembered for one thing: rain. For themselves, as well as the majority of the British GT Championship package, this was the first weekend of the season in which the drivers had to deal with the tricky conditions.
While this proved to be an issue for a few drivers, one competitor who came away from the weekend happy was Bobby Thompson. The Power Maxed Racing driver left Northamptonshire with 218 points, 6 above his nearest championship rival.
“It was absolutely fantastic, the Power Maxed Racing guys really put on a fantastic car for me to put on a fantastic show. I always went into this meeting just here to get points and trophies also accepted as well.”
Thompson left in the best possible position after another trip to the podium allowed him to take sole control of the championship lead, a position he’d shared with Jack Walker-Tully at the end of the last round.
“We took hold of the lead, I hope it stays that way. We’re just here to pick up some points and keep out of damage, I know with Tin-Top racing that can be hard sometimes” he laughs. “So yeah, we’re doing alright so far.”
The racing itself didn’t disappoint. In typically British conditions, Phil House broke away with Thompson in hot pursuit, catching as the race entered its thrilling climax. Thompson seemed stronger as the pair pounded into Brooklands and made the move with a few minutes remaining.
Thompson hung it around the outside of Brooklands, gaining the inside line for Luffield. Despite the conditions, House kept his car stuck to the outside of the turn, getting better drive along the pit straight. From there he pulled ahead, leaving Thompson behind as they barreled through Maggots and Becketts. Despite losing out, Thompson was pleased with the quality of racing that the pair put on.
“We kept it quite safe and secure. I’ve got a lot of respect for Phil, he’s been doing the championship for quite a long time, so he’s got a bit more experience than me and I was learning from him. It’s good in Tin-Top racing to drive next to someone and not be banging doors at all.”
While he might be in the unusual position of leading the championship without having won a race, Thompson knows that consistency is the key to any competition. It might be too early to call, but a championship win may still be on the cards.
“Yeah, 100% [I’d like to win the title]. It would be fantastic for us, for the future if we win this, especially for Power Maxed. The guys need a championship win under their belt and first year of VW Cup would be perfect for them.”
If there’s one reason Thompson will gain the attention of many it’ll be the fact he’s racing a Polo, new for this season. While he was joined by Stefan di Resta at Rockingham, he’s been without a team-mate for most of the year, but with the dominance of Team HARD, it was strange to many that he took the gamble with Power Maxed Racing.
“Well, Ben, my manager at Plan B racing also did marketing and management for Power Maxed, put two and two together and we made a beautiful Polo between us! We’re trying something new and we bought a new Polo R”
“It’s still a development year. Yeah, each time we go out in the car, we want to win, but we’re still developing. It’s a little bit different of a driving style than I was use to last year, so I have to work a little bit harder in the car but that’s all part of the fun, it’s not easy winning races.”
Thompson also feels his lack of team mates hasn’t hindered him yet. “I race if they’re here, I race if they’re not here. It helps I suppose to have more development done on the car, but it’s all part of it. The team is actually looking for another driver in the other Polo which is exactly like mine.”
So far, the championship looks like it could be between any one of ten drivers, as a retirement for Walker-Tully saw him drop from the lead behind Thompson, House and Tom Witts. The single retirement saw him land in equal fourth with Kenan Dole proving how much one race can affect your chances.
“[The championship] changes each weekend, like all motorsport, but looking as it is, House’s the number one who’s come out there for us to beat. But I’m glad he’s not a dirty driver, someone who can race clean and fair.”
“Like everyone on this grid, the next step up is Touring Cars, so if I win the championship at the moment, I feel that’s the only way I can step up, but again, budget is a massive issue.”
Motorsport isn’t known for being cheap and with a single season of VW’s costing at least £50,000, all the drivers know that success is paramount to a steady life within the industry.
“It’s why we’ve got Plan B Racing to help us the whole way. My Dad’s got a full-time job, so has my mum and they help when they can, but they’ve got to put food on the table at home. I do as much as I can on my side of things.”
What it means is that many of the field have to sustain themselves with a regular job as to support their endeavours, Thompson being no different, though he’s pleased that his job allows him more time by the track than his competitors.
“On Monday to Friday, I’m a race coach, instructing people. I do a lot of corporate days and private work, coaching people from track days, all the way up to VW Cup for example. It takes up a lot of time which is good, because every day is like a test day.”
“Sometimes you’ll turn up to a race meeting and feel like you should be getting paid for it, but unfortunately not.”
Thompson currently leads the standings on 218 points. He remains six points clear of House who will rue his poor opening race at Oulton Park. With the championship so tight, consistency and a lack of retirements will be key to the VW Cup. After another successful round at Silverstone, the field head to Spa-Francorchamps for the single flyaway double-header of the year. He’ll be joined at Power Maxed by John Robins for the remainder of the season.