Eric Thompson (racing driver)

Last updated

Eric Thompson
Eric Thompson (racing driver).jpeg
Born(1919-11-04)4 November 1919
Ditton Hill, Surbiton, Surrey, England, UK
Died 22 August 2015(2015-08-22) (aged 95)
Guildford, Surrey
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality Flag of the United Kingdom.svg British
Active years 1952
Teams Connaught Engineering
Entries 1
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 0
Career points 2
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First entry 1952 British Grand Prix
Last entry 1952 British Grand Prix
24 Hours of Le Mans career
Years 1949–1955
Teams HRG
Aston Martin
Connaught Engineering
Best finish 3rd (1951)
Class wins 2 (1949 & 1951)

Eric David Thompson (4 November 1919 – 22 August 2015) [1] [2] was a British motor racing driver, book dealer and insurance broker. He participated in sports car racing between 1949 and 1955 taking his greatest success by finishing third in the 1951 Les 24 Heures du Mans and took part in the 1952 RAC British Grand Prix.

An insurance broker sells, solicits, or negotiates insurance for compensation.

Sports car racing auto racing on circuits with two seat cars and enclosed wheels

Sports car racing is a form of motorsport road racing which utilizes sports cars that have two seats and enclosed wheels. They may be purpose-built (Prototype) or related to road-going models.

The 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 19th Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 23 and 24 June 1950. It was won by Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead in their works-entered Jaguar C-type, the first Le Mans win for the marque.


Thompson worked as a broker for Lloyd's of London. His racing career started in 1948, racing cars for HRG. He won the 1.5-litre class in the Les 24 Heures du Mans in 1949 and drove for Aston Martin driving a DB2 to third place in the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans. He also drove in Formula Libre, RAC Tourist Trophy and Formula Two achieving minor success. He took part in his only Formula One race in the 1952 RAC British Grand Prix finishing fifth, and later spent more time working at Lloyd's. He retired from motor racing at the end of 1955. Thompson resigned from Lloyd's in the 1980s and became a dealer of rare books on motorsport.

Lloyds of London insurance market located in the City of London

Lloyd's of London, generally known simply as Lloyd's, is an insurance and reinsurance market located in London, United Kingdom. Unlike most of its competitors in the industry, it is not an insurance company; rather, Lloyd's is a corporate body governed by the Lloyd's Act 1871 and subsequent Acts of Parliament and operates as a partially-mutualised marketplace within which multiple financial backers, grouped in syndicates, come together to pool and spread risk. These underwriters, or "members", are a collection of both corporations and private individuals, the latter being traditionally known as "Names".

HRG Engineering Company British car manufacturer

HRG Engineering Company also known as HRG, was a British car manufacturer based in Tolworth, Surrey. Founded in 1936 by Major Edward Halford, Guy Robins and Henry Ronald Godfrey, its name was created from the first letter of their surnames. Cars were produced under the HRG name from 1935 to 1956.

The 1949 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 17th Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 25 and 26 June 1949. Luigi Chinetti won the race for a third time in the first Ferrari barchetta by driving 22.5 hours. This race also saw the death of British driver Pierre Maréchal when his Aston Martin DB2 was involved in an accident between Arnage and Maison Blanche around 1:00 a.m. Marechal had attempted to pass another car there and he hit an embankment and the hapless Briton was crushed by the overturning car.


Early life

Thompson was born on 4 November 1919 in Ditton Hill, Surrey. In his childhood he developed an interest in motorsport, becoming a fan of Richard Seaman. After leaving secondary school Thompson found a job at Lloyd's of London as a broker. The work was well paid and required commitment, loyalty and long hours of work. Thompson won many awards for his effort and during the Second World War saw active service. [3]

Surbiton suburban area of south-west London within the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, England

Surbiton is a suburban neighbourhood of south-west London within the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (RBK). It is situated next to the River Thames, 11 miles (18 km) south-west of Charing Cross and is part of the traditional county of Surrey. For administrative purposes, Surbiton has been part of Greater London since 1965, following the passing of the London Government Act 1963. Surbiton comprises four of the RBK's wards: Alexandra, Berrylands, St. Mark's, and Surbiton Hill.

Richard Seaman racecar driver

Richard John Beattie Seaman, was one of the greatest pre-war Grand Prix drivers from Britain. He famously drove for the Mercedes-Benz team from 1937–1939 in the Mercedes-Benz W154 car, winning the 1938 German Grand Prix. He died of his injuries after his car crashed into a tree and caught fire during the 1939 Belgian Grand Prix.


After the war ended Thompson decided to pursue his passion of motor racing. He began his racing career in 1948 at the age of 28 and was well funded. Thompson continued to work at Lloyd's of London and was entitled to two weeks of holiday, with every third weekend off, when he raced. [3] His first race was the 12 Heures de Paris held at the Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry in a shared drive with Robin Richards driving an HRG, finishing fourth in the 1.5-litre class and 17th overall. [4]

Montlhéry Commune in Île-de-France, France

Montlhéry is a commune in the Essonne department in Île-de-France in northern France. It is located 26 km (16.2 mi) from Paris.

In 1949 Thompson made his debut in the Les 24 Heures du Mans with HRG sharing his drive with Jack Fairman. The pairing won the 1.5-litre class and finished eighth overall. [4] They later entered the 24 Hours of Belgium, at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps where he clinched victory in their class. [3] Thompson also won two handicap races at Goodwood. [5] Thompson later took a class win in the Silverstone International Trophy and finished sixth in his class in the Prescott Hillclimb. In 1950 he joined Aston Martin and gave support to three drivers: Reg Parnell, Peter Collins and Roy Salvadori. [3]

Jack Fairman was a British racing driver from England. He participated in 13 Formula One Grands Prix, making his debut on 18 July 1953. He scored a total of five championship points, all of which came in the 1956 season.

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps race track in Spa, Belgium

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is a motor-racing circuit located in Stavelot, Belgium. It is also referred to as Spa and is the venue of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix, and the Spa 24 Hours and 1000 km Spa endurance races.

Handicapping, in sport and games, is the practice of assigning advantage through scoring compensation or other advantage given to different contestants to equalize the chances of winning. The word also applies to the various methods by which the advantage is calculated. In principle, a more experienced participant is disadvantaged, or a less experienced or capable participant is advantaged, in order to make it possible for the less experienced participant to win whilst maintaining fairness. Handicapping is used in scoring many games and competitive sports, including go, shogi, chess, croquet, golf, bowling, polo, basketball, and track and field events. Handicap races are common in clubs which encourage all levels of participants, such as swimming or in cycling clubs and sailing clubs, or which allow participants with a variety of standards of equipment. Often races, contests or tournaments where this practice is competitively employed are known as Handicaps.

Thompson's first race for Aston Martin was a one-hour race held at Silverstone where he finished fourth in his class and 14th overall. He also took part in the 1950 24 Heures du Mans sharing an Aston Martin DB2 with John Gordon but was forced out after nine laps due to engine failure. [3] Thompson also raced with HRG and secured a class win finishing second overall at Blandford, third in a Goodwood Handicap and clinched a class win at the Cambridge University Sprint at Bedwell Hey. In the same year Thompson made his debut in Formula Three driving a Cooper-Vincent at Castle Combe where he retired. [3]

Silverstone Circuit motor racing circuit on the Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire border, UK

Silverstone Circuit is a motor racing circuit in England located next to the Northamptonshire villages of Silverstone and Whittlebury. The circuit straddles the Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire border, with the current main circuit entry on the Buckinghamshire side. The Northamptonshire towns of Towcester and Brackley and Buckinghamshire town of Buckingham are close by, and the nearest large towns are Northampton and Milton Keynes.

The 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 18th Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 24 and 25 June 1950. It was won by the French father-and-son pairing of Louis and Jean-Louis Rosier driving a privately entered Talbot-Lago.

Aston Martin DB2 sports car

The Aston Martin DB2 is a sports car that was sold by Aston Martin from May 1950 through to April 1953. The successor to the 2-Litre Sports model, it had a comparatively advanced dual overhead cam 2.6 L straight-6 engine in place of the previous pushrod straight-4. It was available as a closed, 2-door, 2-seater coupé which Aston Martin called a sports saloon, and later also as a drophead coupé, which accounted for a quarter of the model's total sales. The closed version had some success in racing.

In 1951 Thompson competed prominently in open-wheel racing. He competed in the Goodwood Lavant Cup in a Cooper finishing fifth and finished in the same position in a Bugatti Type 51 in a Boreham Libre event. He later competed in an ERA/Delage and Delahaye and other Libre races, and took part in sports car events with an Aston Martin DB2 in the RAC Tourist Trophy where he finished third in his class and eighth overall. [3] For the works team, Thompson shared a DB2 with Lance Macklin in the Les 24 Heures du Mans where the pair clinched victory in the 3-litre class and finished third overall. [6]

In 1952 Thompson took part in his third Les 24 Heures du Mans driving an Aston Martin DB3 alongside Parnell but retired from transmission problems. The pair suffered a further retirement from the Goodwood Nine Hours when, during the race, the car being driven by Thompson entered the pitlane with smoke coming out of the car and Parnell was not prepared to take over the seat. Parnell grabbed Thompson by the arm and dragged him out before the car caught fire. [3] Throughout the year he drove a DB2 entered by Peter Walker, clinching two victories in handicap events at Goodwood and one at Snetterton with a seventh and eighth at the same circuit. He later took third in class at the CUAC Bottisham Sprint. Thompson took second, seventh and tenth in races at Snetterton, third at Boreham and Castle Combe driving an ERA/Delage and fifth in a private ERA at the British Grand Prix Libre event. [3]

Formula One

Thompson entered a works Connaught for the 1952 RAC British Grand Prix with a Lea-Francis engine and qualified the car ninth on the grid. [7] In the race he made up a position when Gordini driver Robert Manzon was forced to retire with a clutch problem. He managed to finish in fifth place, three laps behind race winner Alberto Ascari and ahead of 1950 World Drivers' Champion Giuseppe Farina, and behind teammate Dennis Poore. [8]

After Formula One

Thompson participated in the 1953 Les 24 Heures du Mans in an Aston Martin DB3S with Poore with the pairing retiring with ignition failure after 182 laps. [3] Parnell and Thompson took part in the Goodwood Nine Hours with Parnell driving in the first stint and Thompson for the next 70 laps. Parnell took over after 77 laps and suffered a puncture 22 laps later. After pitting Parnell drove another 53 laps with Thompson taking over at 21:45. After problems with the clutch, Thompson rejoined with 2 hours and 15 minutes remaining. The pairing eventually won the race. They both took part in that year's Tourist Trophy where they finished second. [3]

Thompson took a second-place finish at Thruxton and drove an Aston Martin DB2 to fifth in the Goodwood Easter Handicap and took sixth in a Libre race driving an Aston Martin DB3, but was forced to retire from the 6-hour relay at Silverstone. He took part in single seater races driving a Connaught A-Type to two victories in Snetterton and second in a Libre race in the Formula Two Championship. [3]

In 1954 Thompson reduced his commitment in the national motor racing scene. He spent the year driving an Aston Martin DB2 and contested the Les 24 Heures du Mans in a Lagonda DP115 with Poore. The pairing retired following a crash after 25 laps. [3] [9] In 1955 Thompson announced his retirement from motor racing due to pressure from his job and drove in his final Les 24 Heures du Mans where he retired with engine problems after 60 laps. [4] He also drove in the Goodwood Nine Hours in a Connaught-Lea-Francis ALSR pairing with Kenneth McAlpine, finishing 16th. Thompson's final competitive race was in 1956 at the CUAC Speed Trials, driving a 498cc Jason to second in his class. [10]

After motorsport

After announcing his retirement from motor racing Thompson concentrated on his work at Lloyd's. He resigned his job in the 1980s and opened a bookshop near Guildford, selling rare books on the history of motor racing. [11] [12] Thompson also made occasional appearances at historic festivals. [3] He became the first driver to be inducted into the Le Mans Drivers Hall of Fame in 2013. [13]

Racing record

Career highlights

1951 Les 24 Heures du Mans [14] 3rd Aston Martin Aston Martin DB2
1952 FIA Formula One World Championship [15] 16th Connaught Engineering Connaught-Lea Francis A
1953Aston Martin Owners Club F2 Race [16] 1st Connaught A
9 Hours of Goodwood [17] 1st David Brown Aston Martin DB3S
RedeX Trophy [18] 1st Connaught A
Tourist Trophy [19] 2nd Aston Martin Aston Martin DB3S
AMOC Trophy [20] 3rd Connaught A

Complete World Championship Grand Prix results


1952 Connaught Engineering Connaught Type A Lea-Francis Straight-4 SUI 500 BEL FRA GBR

Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results

1949 Ecurie Lapin Blanc Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Jack Fairman HRG Lightweight S1.52028th1st
1950 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Aston Martin Ltd. Flag of the United Kingdom.svg John Gordon Aston Martin DB2 S3.08DNF
1951 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Aston Martin Ltd. Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Lance Macklin Aston Martin DB2 S3.02573rd1st
1955 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Aston Martin Ltd. Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Reg Parnell Aston Martin DB3S S3.0DNF
1953 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Aston Martin Ltd. Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Dennis Poore Aston Martin DB3S S3.0182DNF
1954 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg David Brown Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Dennis Poore Lagonda DP115 S5.026DNF
1955 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Connaught Engineering Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Ken McAlpine Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Connaught AL/SR S1.560DNF

Complete 24 Hours of Spa results

1949 Ecurie Lapin Blanc Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Jack Fairman HRG Lightweight S1.510th1st

Complete 12 Hours of Paris results

1948 Ecurie Lapin Blanc Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Robin Richards HRG-Singer 1100 1.117th4th

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  1. "Obituary: Eric Thompson 1919-2015". Other News. 2015-08-25. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  2. "In Memoriam: Eric Thompson (1919-2015)". Le Mans (in French). 25 August 2015. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 "Eric Thompson – Biography". Archived from the original on 24 October 2006. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 "Thompson, Eric". British Racing Drivers Club. Archived from the original on 2 December 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  5. Peter Scherer, "50 Years of British Grand Prix Drivers", tfm Publishing, 1999, p.91.
  6. Harbord, Charles (10 December 2004). "Eric Thompson – 3rd at Le Mans in 1951". Classic Driver. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  7. "1952 British GP – Starting Grid". Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  8. "1952 British Grand Prix". Formula One Management. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  9. Gardiner, Tony (2004). The Brighton National Speed Trials. Veloce Publishing. p. 15. ISBN   1903706882.
  10. Scherer, Peter (1999). 50 Years of British Grand Prix Drivers. TFM Publishing. p. 91.
  11. "Eric Thompson". Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  12. "Drivers: Eric Thompson". Inside F1, Inc. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  13. Hergault, Julien (14 April 2013). "Le Mans Drivers Hall of Fame". Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  14. "Le Mans 24 Hours 1951 - Race Results - Racing Sports Cars". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  15. "1952 F1 Results & Standings Schedule |". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  16. "1953 Aston Martin Owners Club -". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  17. "9 h Goodwood 1953 - Race Results - Racing Sports Cars". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  18. "1945 Robert Benoist Cup -". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  19. "Tourist Trophy 1953 - Race Results - Racing Sports Cars". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  20. Galpin, Darren. "1953 Formula Libre Races". Retrieved 8 November 2016.