“Car racing sponsorship is all about teamwork, it can’t just be ‘here’s my money, make me money back’ | Bobby Thompson
With his grandfather racing speedway bikes in the 70’s, and his father and uncle introducing him to motor cross racing at 7 years old, motorsport is something that has always been a part of Bobby Thompson’s life.
“My dad bought me my first go-kart when I was 7, and I started racing when I was 8.
“It got more and more serious as my dad started forgetting about his own racing and started concentrating on my racing career.”
His father gave up on his racing career to focus on Bobby’s, loading the go-kart onto the van and driving it to the track so Bobby could continue pursuing his hobby. But it wasn’t on his mind to turn it into a profession.
“At the start it was dad and lad fun. I didn’t really realise what I was doing at that age, you just do it because the whole family has done it.
“In the early years of Karting me and my dad would travel with the kart in the back of the van, he’d mechanic me, and I’d do the racing.
“When I was about 13, that’s when I
realised wanted to do it as a job and give it my all”
“It started getting more serious, British and European Championship stuff, when I was about 13, that’s when I realised wanted to do it as a job and give it my all.”
Bobby worked his way through numerous competitions, starting in the VW Cup in Europe, trying out some Formula 4 before he eventually settled onto the British Touring Cars Championship (BTCC.)
“I’ve always landed on my feet to make sure I’m racing each year. We left karting, did a bit of Formula 4, not really knowing where I wanted to go in motorsport.
“I was too tall or too heavy to be an F1 driver and my dad doesn’t have the money to throw to go to go into F1 racing.”
Instead, Bobby found his place in the BTCC.
The BTCC is the third most prestigious motoring event in the world, with only Formula 1 and NASCAR having longer histories.
The cars are limited to be 2 litres and the racing involves brands like Volkswagen (Bobby’s car), BMW, Subaru and Toyota.
The series is shown on ITV4, takes place all over the UK and trackside numbers are close to 40,000.
But for Bobby, the BTCC is better than Formula 1 for numerous reasons.
“I don’t look at F1 as a motorsport at all, it’s a poor excuse for motorsport really because it really is genuinely all about the car.
“Even though every single driver is really good, if they were all in Lewis Hamilton’s car, they’d be winning. But the BTCC is a little bit different as the cars are much more similar.
“I don’t look at F1 as a motorsport at all,
it’s a poor excuse for motorsport really
because it really is genuinely all about the car”
“The gap between drivers is a lot smaller, a second and a half last weekend would take you from first to put you back down to 22nd, maybe even dead last.”
Not only is it closer, but Bobby admits that, unlike F1, if there is a crash the race will continue. And whilst everything about F1 seems to be costly, the BTCC is much more accessible. Bobby compares it to horse racing. You can go to the track, have a drink and watch the race without knowing who will win after 30 seconds.
It may not cost as much to get into, but Bobby has still had to gather sponsors in order to pursue his racing dream.
“The hardest bit is finding your first main sponsor. I was lucky enough to find a company called GKR Scaffolding. Neil Rowsell, GKR’s managing director, helped me out from the start.”
For Bobby, it is a sponsorship that works. Neil understands what it is Bobby does and understands that in order to make the sponsorship work, it takes effort on his part as well, aside from the financials.
“You can’t just give a driver money with
a sticker on the side of the car and expect a return”
“Sponsorship is a 50/50 thing. It can’t just be ‘here’s my money, make me my money back or make my company better.’
“Whereas, GKR for example, they fund the race and that’s where the money goes but they also put their bit into making the sponsorship work, however he wants to use it for his for clients.
“You can’t just give a driver money with a sticker on the side of the car and expect a return.”
Alongside his racing career at the weekend, Bobby also coaches young up-and-coming drivers in the week. Whilst he enjoys his life in motorsport, he admits that having a life outside of sport is so important.
“I like going to the gym and doing something different with guys around my area who don’t have a clue about racing. I don’t have a problem with that because it’s nice to get away from it sometimes.”
That does not detract from his ambition to leave a legacy in motorsport. Long term, Bobby’s eye is on winning the BTCC. But for now, he is determined to get onto the podium and take the next step in cementing his success.