Andrew Thompson reunites with Heavy Haulage Australia Racing’s Tim Slade for this year’s PIRTEK Enduro Cup – and is hoping for a change of fortune in a new marque on the Mountain.
Thompson, 25, has had a challenging career – ranging from two full-time years in the Championship; a dream endurance drive with Jamie Whincup that didn’t achieve the results he’d hoped; to now concentrating on the endurance races.
Despite the challenge Thompson told v8supercars.com.au he was happy and comfortable in the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG – and despite the history, would relish the opportunity for another full-time stint in V8 Supercars.
“It’s my second year with Tim, Wes (McDougall, engineer) and the boys – I know everyone from last year, so there aren’t any surprises,” he said. “It’s a different name and different brand of car – so I guess some things are not quite the same.
“Overall we’ve been making some really good ground over the last few months and showing positive speed with the changes made.
“Come Sandown and Bathurst, I think the team will be at the next step up.
“I will do what I need to do, provide the support I’m there for and I think we can come up with some results.”
Thompson admitted he had been rusty behind the wheel of the new generation car, but felt settled after testing, ride days and co-driver sessions.
Thompson came through the ranks alongside Slade, the two having raced go karts and other categories at similar times over the years.
“My first drive out in a kart I crashed at the very first corner – so it all started pretty good!” he joked.
“I started out pretty slow and not convincingly … but I progressed on from there and by the time I left karts had a couple of national championships, state championships, and a few other bits and pieces.
“I get along with Tim and we both seem to be on the same page. We understand each other, are able to work together and understand what we need to do… enduros are usually one big compromise.”
Last year the pair finished seventh at the Sandown 500 and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, Thompson’s best results in a V8 Supercar.
When the pairing was announced last month, the 25-year old said he felt there were still a lot of improvements they could make.
“I don’t think you can ever say you had a perfect run, or that everything went well,” said Thomson.
“A couple of years ago, I had a good run with Triple Eight (paired with Jamie Whincup, 2011). I thought I’d put my best effort into a run at Bathurst – we had mechanical issues and came 21st.
“It was, I’d say, one of the best driving performances I’d put in from a consistency basis – and put us 21st. So you can’t ever say too much.”
Thompson went on to win the development series title that year, with an impressive six wins from seven events. But that didn’t open doors to another main series drive after his stints in 2008 (PWR) and 2010 (WR).
In fact, he believes it was a mistake to jump into a main game V8 Supercar in 2008.
“That was not a very good choice (contesting the main series). It was a pretty average year, pretty tough, but again it was experience and character building,” he said.
“From there on I was in and out of enduro drives and the main game … It’s been up and down – sometimes you make some bad calls and stupid decisions on where you think you should be.”
Thompson is not competing in an additional category this year and works in the property industry, having a real estate licence.
“I have an umbrella of things I’m working on personally that keep me pretty busy … I just fill the gaps while I’m waiting for the enduros to come around and am working to get back into the series.
“I want to come back. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. We’ll see how it all unfolds … it’s a pretty tough time in the sport at the moment and it’s not easy for anyone out there. But the plan is to be back.”