A great driver can quickly adapt in any type of car and International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda series driver Colin Thompson is proving that to be true.
Thompson, who won a Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA championship, has made the move from a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car to a Norma M30 - the first and only car of its kind in the world - in the Prototype Challenge series. He won his IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge championship with Kelly-Moss Road and Race and will continue to drive with the team in his new car as well.
"As a professional driver, I need to reevaluate each year and see where the opportunities are," Thompson said. "For three years, that opportunity was driving a Porsche and then it changed and I had a great opportunity to get into a Prototype car."
Thompson started driving at age five after growing up seeing his dad, a former professional driver in Formula Atlantics in the 1980's, thriving at the racetrack.The 23-year-old driver is from the small farm town of Perkasie, about 35 miles north of Philadelphia. His mom, dad and older sister, Taylor, still live in Perkasie, but Thompson has expanded his horizons and now lives in Miami.
"I started go-karting as a hobby - I never intended for it to be anything more than that," Thompson said.
But after winning a Quarter Midgets of America championship at age 14, racing quickly became more than a pastime.
After winning the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA championship in 2014, Thompson moved to another sports car series in 2015 before returning to IMSA to try his hand at driving a Norma M30.
"The Norma M30 is definitely different - this car is opposite from any other car I've driven," Thompson said. "The car is over-designed and we have only had one failure for a new car, which is just unheard of for a car of any kind."
Thompson also competed in the Twelve Hours of Sebring in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and placed third in yet another car - the No. 26 Prototype Challenge (PC) entry - with BAR1 Motorsports.The Prototype Challenge series kicked off its 2017 season at Sebring International Raceway during the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida March 15-17. After a parts issue took him out of Sprint 1, Thompson rebounded to a strong second-place finish in Sprint 2.
"It's really challenging to perform at the top of what the car will give you but it's necessary," he said. "You have to adjust to all different things as you're driving, but in the end, it's all four wheels and an engine."
Jeff Stone, President of Madison, Wisconsin-based Kelly-Moss Road and Race, said it's important for Thompson to get Prototype experience and show he can jump in and drive any kind of car.
"One of our focuses at Kelly-Moss is trying to make these young drivers have the ability to earn a living as a professional driver," Stone said. "So, part of that is making sure they're not a one trick pony and they're able to drive anything."
"I ran in my Porsche with Kelly-Moss and we have a saying '2 for 2' since I won two GT car championships with them," Thompson said. "This will be our third year working together and our third new series and hopefully our third championship."
Stone also said Thompson has truly grown up in the past four years, and is much more into the business side of racing now.
Said Stone: "Colin is continuing to get better and better as a driver. He's far from his peak and knowing the business side of racing will help him with his career.
"As a team, we're always focused on being consistent and scoring points. Single race wins are not always remembered, but winning a championship is. This year, we are once again focused on Colin winning the Prototype Challenge championship."
Thompson's sponsors for 2017 include Mattoni Brands North America, Italian stylist Eduardo Borrelli, Ignite Payments, Ernst Benz and Toast Vodka.
"As far as this year goes, our goal is to win the championship and we're pushing to continue to accomplish the goals we set out for ourselves," Thompson said. "At the end of the day, I just want to drive. I love this sport and I'll do whatever it takes to be in a race car every year."