KARL THOMSON REFLECTS ON WINNING SEASON
Grand Am's KONI Challenge wrapped up it's 12-race 2007 season at picturesque Virgina International Raceway in early October. Karl Thomson, who co-drove with Billy Johnson in the #76 Acura TSX, looks back on the year with pride. "We started 2007 with a win at Daytona," he noted. "We won at Billy's home track (Laguna Seca) and at mine (Mosport), and had another win at Watkins Glen. That is simply an amazing year!"
In fact, Johnson and Thomson took more wins than any other Street Tuner-class duo all year. They finished second in the ST Driver's Championship, and helped to bring Acura its second consecutive Manufacturer's Championship. "I've been a season-long driver with Grand Am since 2004, and have helped to bring the manufacturer's title home three times. That's a special honor and we are looking forward to celebrating with Acura at the Grand Am banquet in Las Vegas!"
Despite winning more races than anyone else, Thomson and Johnson placed second in the Driver's Championship. "We had two races where contact took us out," noted Thomson. "At Lime Rock Billy had to slow for a back-marker and got tagged from behind, which cracked the header and finished our race early. And at Mid-Ohio I got punted on the second lap, which broke the suspension and meant we ended up 29th."
That was enough for #76's pair to finish just a few points behind the #95 Turner BMW of Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood. "It came down to a fight between the two cars in the last half of the season," remarked Thomson. "It was a tight battle. One race we would do well and be ahead -- the next race they would squeak ahead -- it was back-and- forth until the end."
"I think we made the ST-class fight interesting this year," he said. "Front-wheel drive versus rear-wheel; Japanese against German. Each car has strengths and that's what makes the battle so much fun!" Johnson brought some extra excitement to the races with two dramatic last-lap passes for the lead, first at Mosport and then at Watkins Glen.
Thomson continued, "It's been a real honor to be in a championship fight with a team like Turner. They've been the class of the field for the past few years, and our guys have worked hard to bring our game up to their level. Our Crew Chief, Ray Lee, especially, has been instrumental in getting our Acuras to the front."
Thomson's also proud of the strong results posted by the team's #75 TSX and #74 RSX-S. "VIR was a great indicator of how equally our cars are prepared," noted Thomson. "Each of our Acuras led the race at some point. You've got to admit it's a pretty amazing feat to have three different cars from a single team lead a race!" Thomson puts that down to a great crew and carefully selected driving talent. "We really analyze each driver and pair them with a partner that will maximize the performance of both." He points to rookie Matt Pritiko, who had a number of impressive drives this season, including a fourth place at Trois-Rivieres. Beau Buisson, who was lead driver in the #75 also ran up front regularly, especially at Daytona, where he led for his entire stint.
"That's how it was for the whole year," explains Thomson. "Unlike many teams, there is no 'number one' car for us. The goal is always to get all of our Acuras right up front, every session, and at the end of the race."
"We're looking forward to the KONI banquet in Las Vegas next week," concluded Thomson. "A bunch of our crew is going with a few folks from Honda, and being part of SEMA gives us some great business opportunities." In other words, sponsor agreements are expected in the weeks following the show, along with details on the team's program for 2008, which will once again feature a front-running Acura ST-class effort.