True Tales from the TDI Cup: Part 1 -- VIR The first round of the TDI Cup was held this past weekend at beautiful Virginia International Raceway, located just outside of Danville, VA. For those of you not familiar with Danville, it is a thriving...
True Tales from the TDI Cup: Part 1 -- VIR
The first round of the TDI Cup was held this past weekend at beautiful Virginia International Raceway, located just outside of Danville, VA. For those of you not familiar with Danville, it is a thriving Metropolis in the southern part of the state, which really gives this race a Monaco-esque feel. Throughout the weekend the pits are filled with the many movie stars and high society members that consider Danville a second home. At night the party atmosphere really heats up, as the locals take to the streets to show off their collection of Ferrari's, Bugatti's, Aston's and Lamborghini's. In these situations it's always difficult to stay focused on the task at hand, but being a seasoned pro, I was able to shut out the distractions of Danville's nightlife and prepare for the races.
Arriving in the paddock on Friday morning, it was nice to see so many of my adoring fans. After my victory in Round 2 of the TDI Cup at VIR last year, my popularity in Virginia sky-rocketed, and it was good to see that thousands of my fans had made the drive to cheer me on this year. In the garage I got fitted to my #19/Red Bull/ Right To Play/ Odkarts.com Volkswagen TDI. Although the official TDI Cup policy is that cars are randomly assigned, I don't think it's a coincidence that I was put in the Red Bull car considering my Rock Star persona, and devilish good looks.
In first practice, Ryan Ellis set the tone for the weekend, by laying down a lightning fast time of 2min13.3 seconds. For those of you who don't know Ryan is actually a dual sport athlete having been selected 11th overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft by the Nashville Predators. This makes it a little suspicious that Ryan was driving the #6 "Rock The Red" Washington Capitals car this weekend. Is there a trade in the works? Could the diminutive offensive defenseman Ellis be on his way to the Capitals with Mike Green possibly going the other way? Time will tell.
Qualifying proved more of the same, as Ellis took pole for both races, with Mexican racing legend Juan Pablo Sierra Lendle qualifying 2nd both times. JP is one of the biggest superstars in his country, and his name Sierra Lendle literally translates to "ridiculously fast" in English so there was no shame qualifying behind these two. I managed to put the #19 in the third spot for Race 1, and fourth on the grid for Race 2, much to the delight of my adoring fans. Our guest driver, current Indy Lights points leader, JK Vernay, who some are already calling the next Alan Prost, was able to just squeak by me into 3rd during the second qualifying session.
Prior to Saturday's Race 1, I stopped by the "Jake Thompson Fanzone" that had been constructed by my fan club on the hill above Turn 4. I spent a few hours signing autographs and posing for pictures before belting into the car. The start of the race went off exactly as planned, as I was able to slot into 3rd in the early going, and hang with the leaders throughout the 14 lap race. On the final lap I made my move, as JP ran wide in turn 1 and I was able to grab 2nd. However, seconds later, disaster would strike. At 170km/h the left front tire exploded, probably due to debris, leaving me stranded in turn 10, as the rest of the field sped by to take the chequered flag. This handed 3rd place to the deserving AJ Nealey, much to the excitement of his legion of fans who had taken over the south end of VIR (Editor's note: Unlike the "Jake Thompson Fanzone", the AJ Nealey fan club is very real, and his rowdy followers actually did take over the south end of VIR).
To make matters worse, as I tried to climb out of my wounded car, I re-aggravated an old injury and dislocated my shoulder. For those of you not educated in medical terminology, a dislocated shoulder refers to when your arm actually falls off, and needs to be surgically reattached. I originally suffered this injury while taking part in an intense and barbaric game of ice hockey (Editors Note: This injury actually dates back to being tripped by his little sister while playing pond hockey).
Remarkably, after having my arm re-attached, I decided to still drive on Sunday, not wanting to let down the tens of thousands of Jake Thompson supporters on hand. Race 2 went off without any of Saturday's bad luck, and I was able to bring the # 19 Redbull / Right To Play / Odkarts.com Volkswagen TDI home in 3rd place, for my first podium of the season. With the podium, we were able to raise over $1000 for Right To Play.
The next race on the TDI Cup schedule is May 8th at New Jersey Motorsports Park, another track where I have gained Schumacher-like popularity so expect the Jake Thompson faithful to be out in force once again. After the DNF in race 1, and the extremely impressive performance of Hockey superstar Ryan Ellis, I will definitely need a big weekend to get back in title contention. In the meantime make sure to click on my profile at driverdb.com, as I've now cracked the top 4000 in popularity, tied with the immortal Aki Ajo, and follow me at twitter.com/jakethompson19, because having only 7 followers is downright embarrassing. Also, feel free to leave a comment as it's nice knowing someone other than my mom is reading this. Thanks again to all my mechanics and the great people at VW for kicking the season off on such a great note!