It’s something you’re either born with or not —the intense need for speed, choosing to accelerate at top speeds others would flinch at.
This deep-seated need to chase a thrill is something Parker Thompson, 16, of Red Deer, was born with and is guiding him into a premier level of karting towards his quest to win the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.
Currently on a winter break, and after successful off-season preparations and testing with his new team JDC Motorsports, Thompson said 2015 is looking like a really good year.
“The team chemistry has been fantastic and the car is feeling better and better the more we develop it,” he said.
Thompson first got behind the wheel of a kart at the young age of eight. He said his dad was into high intensity two-wheel racing, like motocross, and suffered a few injuries along the way. Thompson wanted to follow his dad’s path, but instead landed on all four wheels.
“Karting on four wheels is just as fast, but it seemed like the safer option.”
Racing at a local kart club in Calgary, Thompson’s skills began to make him a standout and soon he was competing in regional events throughout B.C. and Alberta.
“I did really well in my first year of karting and soon I received a phone call from Buddy Rice out of Phoenix,” explained Thompson.
As a former Indy 500 and the 2009 24 Hours of Daytona winner, Rice took Thompson under his wing, acting as his coach and essentially propelling his career onto the next level.
“It all unfolded from there,” said Thompson. “He’s quite well-known in racing and opened up doors for me.”
At the age of 14, Thompson moved to Italy all on his own to pursue full-time racing in Europe.
In 2012, Thompson was the first ever North American to make it to the podium in the junior rotax category at the World Championships in Portugal, where he was ranked third in the world.
Now as a rookie, Thompson has made the jump from driving 125cc karts in Europe that topped out at 140 km/h, to now racing formula cars, which can reach speeds upwards of 240 km/h.
He was signed to JDC Motorsports, a Minnesota-based squad, in December, joining the Road to Indy driver development program, which provides drivers with an opportunity to gain valuable experience on and off the track while following a path of progression through a three-part development series, leading eventually to a scholarship to move up to the next above category.
“It feels great to have a group of very respected people in motorsport believe in what I have to offer on and off the track,” he said. “For them to put their trust in a driver who has not yet proven himself yet is really amazing.”
The JDC Motorsports team has two classes of cars and Thompson will be behind the wheel of the USF2000. Most of the other drivers in the Championship, which is the first step up the Road to Indy ladder, are a few years older than Thompson.
“Most competitors are in the 18 to 21 year age, with more experience,” explained Thompson.
Each day new drivers are signing on to teams for the championship, but for now Thompson is the youngest driver.
Thompson will be competing in his first event on March 27th on a 1.8 mile street course through the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. He will first compete in the Cooper Tires Winterfest on Feb. 19th and 20th at the NOLA Motorsports Park.