Dick Thompson, in the Mecom-owned Grand Sport, at Nassau in 1963.
Photo: Dave Friedman
Dave Friedman in his book on American sports car racing in the golden era of racing called Dr. Dick Thompson one of the finest American drivers of his era. Dick started racing with an MGTD in 1952 and leaped into racing from the deep end when he and a friend drove to Sebring and competed in one of the first 12-hour races at that venue. He finished 10th he thinks. From there he went on to drive a Porsche 356 and Dick competed in the Nassau Speed Weeks by driving his Porsche to Florida, taking the ferry to Nassau and then returning the same way. He went on to make the acquaintance of and drive for and against some of the more significant drivers of that era like Paul O’Shea, John Fitch and Briggs Cunningham. He drove Corvettes for Cunningham and Fitch and ended up winning a C Mod championship in the famous Bill Mitchell Corvette SS, the first of his two national championships. His prowess led to his teaming up with the legendary Zora Arkus Duntov in a December 1962 Sebring test of GM’s secret weapon: the ferocious Corvette Grand Sport. He drove various marks of these beasts in races around the country and also drove the car for Gulf Oil’s Grady Davis team in 1963. Later on, he also drove for Texan John Mecom’s team again in a Grand Sport and humiliated the Cobra team at the Nassau Speedweeks. His abilities came to the attention of other entrants as well, and in 1966 Dick drove for Ford in a seven-liter Ford GT40 Mark II at Le Mans. He never did make much money other than expenses in racing and so never did give up his dental practice in Washington, DC. He returned full time to that profession and left racing, rarely to get into the cockpit of a racecar ever again, aside from parade laps at a recent Monterey Historics where he drove a Corvette. He was inducted into the Corvette Motorsport Museum Hall of Fame in 2000. Today, he lives in Wellington, Florida where he shoots a 92 on the local golf links. Not bad for someone who is 86. John Wright recently caught up with him to learn more about his fascinating career.
VRJ: So Dick, what was your first sports car and how did you get into racing?
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