Full Throttle With Pro Drifter Carl Thompson
Carl Thompson is a rising star on the drifting scene. Only two years into professional racing, he’s already in the pro-series and placing as one of the top ten drivers in New Zealand. But he’s certainly not new to cars.
“I was about twelve years old when we moved from Warkworth to a lifestyle block in Kaipara Flats. That’s when I started driving in the paddocks,” says Carl.
“My friends and my older brothers and I would go to the wreckers and get a car for about 50 dollars. They weren’t road legal, but they were starting. Then we’d just wreck them even more – jumping over motocross jumps, driving through trees, sliding around and doing burnouts. They wouldn’t last a week – sometimes they wouldn’t last an hour!”
A love of motoring runs in the Thompson family blood. Carl’s father Jamie collects cars and even had a car museum in Kaipara Flats back in the day. Carl’s wife Tash and his mother Julie – of Julie’s Animal Rescue – have always been incredibly supportive of his passion.
“My family like to watch the races – sometimes they get more nervous than me,” laughs Carl. “My daughter Ellie, who is four, loves speed. She’s already trying to drive things. And my son Charlie who's nearly one – his first word was car.”
Carl’s motor-sport of choice is called drifting. Two vehicles are on the track at the same time, but it’s not necessarily the fastest car that wins. The judges lay out clipping points, creating a new track for each competition. The cars must hit these points within a certain distance, sometimes as close as 100mm, most of the time while sliding sideways! The three judges then score each driver on a number of criteria, including how fluent the clipping points are being hit, the depth of the angles and the driver’s attitude - how much noise they make, how much smoke they create, and how aggressive they drive. Drifting cars have brake lights on the roof, and excessive use of brakes will cost you points.
“Full throttle means the best scores – so I try to brake as little as possible,” says Carl.
Carl is a Falken Tyres driver and his race cars are highly modified Nissans. A big part of his time with the team is spent in the garage. “When you’re designing a race car, you’ve got a vision, you’re doing it up to a really high level, and you’re pushing the boundaries for everyone”, Carl says.
Other than swish colour schemes, another thing that sets Carl's car apart is the licence plate saying FATBOY.
“Fatboy was my nickname from friends growing up, so it was a joke at first - but now FatboyDrift is my brand. It’s definitely more memorable than Carl Thompson!” he says.
For anyone else starting out, Carl recommends you get a RWD-car that is easy to slide and start practising in a safe place. And above all to believe in yourself. He strongly believes that the language you speak is what you create in life.
“My biggest hurdles would always be in my own head,” says Carl.
“I used to question myself and look too much at what other people were doing. And if you speak negatively, you’re making yourself believe it. Once I realised that, things turned for me. Now I know that I can go out and do anything my own way. I respect other drivers. When they get good results and good partnerships, I’m happy for them, because I know how hard they’ve worked. Once you realise that the only person holding you back is yourself, you stop comparing yourself to others, and just focus on pushing yourself in a good direction.”
After years of working in a tyre shop, Carl is now able to focus on racing full-time. “Half of the fun is what we do in the garage as a team. We’re all good buddies. We build cars, we break them, and then we do it all over again!”