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James Thompson - The Interview
James Thompson2001 has seen James Thompson return to his touring car roots, pairing up with Phil Bennett to drive a Triple Eight Race Engineering prepared Vauxhall Astra Coupe for the Egg Sport team. James made his BTCC works debut back in 1995, again driving for Vauxhall. At the time, he was the youngest ever BTCC driver. Since then he has spent four years driving for Honda, and this included a third place in the 1998 championship. In 2000, he started the season as one of the favourites to win the title, but a spectacular accident in the season opener at Brands Hatch forced him to sit out several rounds, putting paid to his championship chances.

The 2001 season so far has been fairly successful for James, having taken 2 wins, and coming up to the halfway point in the season he lies in 3rd place in the championship, just 21 points behind leader Yvan Muller. We caught up with him to pose a few questions...

You initially seemed somewhat sceptical about this years BTCC. What was it that changed your mind?
I was initially sceptical about the rules that were first talked about, because they were going to be more like those of the production class and not what we have now, which I think are a very good compromise between performance and cost.
You have been a Touring Car driver a number of years now. How do you think the rule changes this year have affected the BTCC? Has it made the series better?
The introduction of the aerodynamics to the cars destroyed the championship mainly because of the inability to change your aero package through the year so if you hadnít as much downforce as another competitor you would have no chance for the whole year.
Your attitude towards your racing has changed significantly this year. Youíve been talking about driving a more tactical race. Who was it that influenced you to think more about tactics?
To be honest the last few years I have been quite tactical in the respect that I always try to finish as many races as possible, unfortunalty last year my championship was over before it started, but the previous year I finished more races than anyone else, and that is very important now that there are less cars on the grid because you always stand a good chance of scoring well.
Vauxhall DID YOU KNOW? : There are live webcams and a chat with the drivers at each BTCC meeting this year at the official Triple Eight website:
This year sees you working closely with your Race Engineer, Pete Harrison, who you have worked with in the past. How important is this working relationship to you?
I have known Pete Harrison since 1995 and he has engineered me throughout most of my touring car career, but at the end of 1999 he left for F1 and BAR which I was very pleased for him because its great for any one to reach the pinical of their sport. He gives me a lot of confidence especially when the going gets tough, and Iím sure with his brain he should have been a rocket scientist.
How do you feel about the extra ballast that Vauxhall have been instructed to carry?
Itís a shame that we are getting penalised for doing such a good job, its up to the others to catch up if they want to win. When you consider that the weight penalty 90kg that Yvan, JP, and myself are carrying costs us 1 second per lap.
Are you disappointed that the Peugeots have not been able to provide more competition?
Iím disappointed that the Peugeots havenít been able to give us a race because it would be good for the championship and good for the fans.
You and Jason Plato are good friends off the track. Does the close racing like we saw at Brands Hatch this year ever affect your friendship?
JP and I are good friends but as you have probably seen we donít give much quarter on the track , there is no room for good manners out there you donít score points for it.
How do you rate your Egg Sport team mate Phil Bennett?
Phil is very good fun to have as a team mate, this year he is like a kid in a sweet shop, his enthusiasm for the racing is fantastic. He's not been helped by the lack of testing this year as there is a lot to learn for him, but I think he is doing a good job.
Eggs  James Thompson  James Thompson
Looking at the Production class this year, who do you see as being a future Touring class driver?
Its hard to say because what usually happens when a manufacturer comes into touring car racing is they choose the proven drivers to get the job done because there is to much at stake, there are not to many willing to give unproven people a chance like Vauxhall did with me.
What differences in set up do you have to make for the night race?
The night race really is just about making sure the lights work, the cars setup stays very similar to a normal race. Last year you could run the softer tyre because of the lower temperatures, but because we only have one compound now that is not possible.
What is your favourite race track and why?
Spa is my favourite track because it is long fast and daunting, and awesome at night.
What is the most challenging corner for you as a driver?
Church at Thruxton because every time you go there you realise you need you seat belts tighter!!
Would you like to see the BTCC race at Rockingham?
If its an entertaining circuit for the fans then Iím sure we will be there.
Do you have a pre race routine or any superstitions? Do you carry anything lucky with you at race meetings?
I have no superstitions whatsoever.
Which racing driver do you admire the most?
The image of the great Aryton Senna qualifying, with his sheer commitment and ability inspired me and Iím sure countless others.
Egg Sport DID YOU KNOW? : The partnership between Egg and Triple Eight is the first major UK sponsorship deal for the online financial services provider. See for more details.
What is the best race car you have driven and why?
The Vauxhall Cavalier in 95 was the most well balanced race car I have had the pleasure to drive, not only was it my first real touring car but it started my career rolling.
What is your best memory of your career?
Best memory of my career was winning my first touring car race in 95 only a few days after my 21st birthday, the sense of achievement was fantastic.
In contrast, what is your worst memory of your career?
This last year 2000 was one long bad memory in terms of racing.
You had a near fatal crash back in 95 at Knockhill. What affect did this have on you?
95 was the start and nearly the finish of my career, these things teach you that there is nothing more important than life, when it is nearly taken from you it lightens your perspective on racing a little, so you can enjoy yourself a bit more without thinking itís the wrong thing to do.
In terms of team mates over the years, who did you learn a lot from and who was the most fun to work with?
Gabrielle Tarquini was definitely my best teammate we had so much fun in 97, he taught me to not to be jealous of other peoples talent and have faith in your own and overall when the racing has stopped have fun. GT is the only teammate I speak to on a regular basis apart from JP of course.
What was John Cleland like as a team mate?
John and I had a slightly tempestuous relationship,I was to young to be part of his crowd of drivers at the time and to much of a threat to trust., but I have a lot of respect for JC he was another of the guys who could enjoy himself and still be quick. And we get on well nowadays.
You have said in the past that you are a firm believer in going to work and enjoying yourself. Are you enjoying the season so far in the Egg Sport Vauxhall?
This year not just from a results point of view but from a team perspective the enjoyment is fantastic there is a great bunch of people at Triple Eight all of which combine to make the racing successful and fun. And the people Iím in close contact with from Egg and Vauxhall only enhance the situation.
Do you have any ambitions to drive in a different series?
Iím a great believer in if it isnít broken donít fix it and while Iím have fun and winning races why change, but you always have to keep a lookout for whats on the horizon because there are a lot of drivers out there.
Best wishes, James Thompson.
James Thompson
Thanks go to James Thompson for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer the questions for us. If you want more information about James, why not visit the official websites of Egg Sport and Triple Eight, at and You can also be sure that we'll keep you updated on James' progress right here at
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