Gary Thompson capped his 2011 season perfectly this week with a successful maiden test in premier Asian single-seater series Formula Nippon.
The 19-year-old has spent this year competing in Japanese F3 for the SGC by KCMG team, recording a breakthrough win and scooping an additional five podium finishes. He remained with the squad for his first taste of Formula Nippon, enjoying two days of running at the Fuji International Speedway on Monday and Tuesday (November 28/29).
Although at the controls of a significantly faster machine than he is used to, Thompson quickly settled down to business in the 3.4-litre Toyota V8-powered car, delivering competitive times within a few laps of hitting the circuit. Growing in confidence throughout, he was able to outpace his experienced team-mate by a considerable margin whilst also putting a clutch of series regulars and a former DTM and GP2 campaigner in the shade.
Formula Nippon is notoriously tough for rookies to get to grips with thanks to the technical nature of its Swift FN09 chassis and the presence of several world-class drivers amongst its ranks. Despite this Thompson made a strong impression on his team, who handed him extra time behind the wheel after his impressive performance on Monday. This level of trust bodes well for the Irishman as he seeks to take the next step up the motor racing ladder.
Gary Thompson: "Firstly, I'd like to thank Toyota, KCMG and SG Changi for giving me the chance to take part in this test. Their support has been invaluable and I'm truly grateful for it. "The car is really fun to drive: it's seriously quick, but at the same time you can grab it by the scruff of the neck and really attack it. “I was able to settle in to a rhythm quickly, which was great. Initially the high-speed corners were a challenge but by the end I feel I was very strong in them. I think I stood up to the increased physical demands of the car too, so that's very positive.
"Though the test went well we still aren't making Nippon our priority for 2012 as this was more of a learning experience. That said, if the right offer of a seat came along I certainly wouldn't rule it out as I'm very keen to get the opportunity to go racing in one of these cars. Formula Nippon remains one of my long-term goals and I’m thrilled to have made a positive first impression."
Thompson's focus will now switch to firming up his plans for next season as he bids to build on the momentum his career has gained during the past 12 months. With a maiden Japanese F3 win to his name and now a successful Formula Nippon test under his belt the Dubliner will be looking to go from strength to strength in 2012.
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