SCCA Hall of Fame – Dick Thompson
He began racing late in life, had no formal training, no engineering degree, no mechanical background, and no relevant experience to draw upon. But by the time he retired from the sport seventeen years later he had seen seat time in some of the world’s greatest production and sports racing cars, won class or overall wins in many of the world’s major racing venues, including Sebring, Le Mans and Spa, and earned no less than seven SCCA national championships. And along the way he helped save the Corvette from extinction by playing a key role in transforming the car from a wannabe into a genuine contender.
This amazing man was a dentist from Washington, DC named Dr. Dick Thompson. But to those who had the privilege of seeing him find the fast way around race tracks throughout the world, he will be forever known as “The Flying Dentist.” Dick’s very first race was the very first 12 Hours of Sebring in 1952. He and his pal Bill Kinchloe drove his MG-TD down to Sebring, raced it for 12 hours to an 8th overall finish, and then drove it back home to Washington DC. Over the next seventeen years Dick drove an incredibly diverse array of cars – a partial list includes Porsches, Jaguars, Maseratis, Austin Healeys, Shelby Mustangs, Mercedes, Cobras, Listers, MGs, Ferraris, Ford GT40s, Formula Juniors, Corvairs, Gulf Mirage M1s, the Howmet Turbine, and of course, Corvettes, the marque with which he is most closely associated.
The 1950s and ’60s were, by any measure, a golden era of racing and The Flying Dentist helped write that story. Over the seventeen years he competed, Dick raced with, against, and for everyone and anyone, including all of the giants in the sport, and he earned the respect of every single person he crossed paths with. This not only because he was an incredibly skilled driver, but even more importantly, because he was the consummate gentleman, both on and off the track. He was, simply stated, the nicest person imaginable, and that’s how I will always remember him.
Last night, at the the organization’s National Convention, Dick Thompson was posthumously inducted into the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame. It is an honor well-earned and richly deserved. I met Dick more than thirty years ago, got to know him quite well over time, was privileged to call him my friend, and was honored to speak at the convention last night on behalf of the Thompson family.
Written by Richard Prince