Wise head on young shoulders

Thompson a leader, not a follower


Written by Pete McNae

The clock is ticking for Cameron Thompson. Today, the Nelson youth ministock competitor turns 16, meaning he is into his last summer in the class. After racing at the Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway for the first time on the day he turned 12 (the minimum entry age for the class), Thompson is as close as you can get to extracting maximum mileage from youth ministocks, squeezing out five full seasons in the ranks.

And, while the 95N is a common sight near the front of the field, Thompson has an itch that needs scratching this summer, starting on Saturday at the annual Coca-Cola fireworks meeting at the Lansdowne Rd race track. Yep, four full seasons so far and that chequered flag on his home track has proved elusive.

“I do want to win a race here, I’ve had half-a-dozen wins in Blenheim but haven’t managed to get it done in Nelson, for various reasons,” Thompson said. “It’s a want but it’s not a need. I’d like to win a race here but it’s not going to wreck my weekend if it doesn’t happen. I’m just as happy if the field is strong and the racing is good and we all get out of our cars smiling afterwards.”

Cameron Thompson is not your bog standard teenaged racer, then. He has already earned club kudos for what he has brought to the Nelson Speedway Association off the race track and treats the racing as a bonus, rather than the “be all and end all”.

In just his second season, he combined a pair of passions by taking the ministock along to his Scout group, engaging a core of new fans. Last season, during the Nelson Speedway Association’s Racing for the Kids Child Cancer Foundation fundraiser, he helped organise a display of youth class cars, seeking donations for the chance to sit in the cars and have photos taken, with the money going back to the CCF. A special fuss was made of young cancer survivor, Deanna Marsden, who got to meet her speedway heroes. Last year, he was recognised with the class sportsmanship award among the youth ministocks while he also received the President’s Award of Distinction for his efforts to promote and foster the sport. And this season, at 16, Thompson has accepted class rep responsibilities during the week, making sure the class is kept informed about what is coming up on race days and ringing around to bring together the weekend’s field. On race night, he hands over to former youth ministock driver Alec Muckle so he can focus on his three heats. And, maybe, that flag.

“Yeah, the flag. I’ve been close but usually the driver has found a way to mess up the last lap and leave a gap for someone to blow by me. I’m working on that,” he says. “I’m aware of it but maybe the best race I have ever had in a ministock was a couple of seasons back when Hamish [Carter] and I went neck and neck for the whole race, changed the lead eight times and it went right to the line. He won but we got out of the cars, took off our helmets and the smiles were a mile wide. If I was disappointed about not winning, it was completely overtaken by the fun and the thrill of that battle.”

Thompson’s car, which dates back further than the driver, is one of just two in the Nelson field that runs leaf spring suspension rather than the more common coil setup. At the club’s second practice day, with a smooth packed track, Thompson said it was flying. “Usually, there will be more bumps and ruts out there and that suits the coil cars, they absorb that better. With the leaf springs, the bumps unload the car and you lose a lot of speed but they work great on a smooth surface. Fingers crossed we get a few more of those tracks this season because it’s literally a level playing field.”

Saturday’s racing will be particularly poignant for Thompson, who lost one of his staunchest supporters this week. Thompson’s mum, Anita, used to go to speedway meetings with her dad and it was with Anita’s prompting that Cameron started racing on his 12th birthday. Cameron’s granddad, who rarely missed a meeting, passed away last weekend. “That family aspect is what means the most to me about speedway, doing this with my parents and the support I have had from my family is the only reason I have been able to compete,” Thompson said. “Even when I first came into the class, they made us welcome – I mean, people like Brittany Carpenter and Trey Kelling and their families came across the pits and were really encouraging. As class rep, that’s a feeling I want to build again now – no divisions, everyone deserves to be there and we all look out for each other. It’s that family feeling but spread across the whole class.”

Thompson’s racing future is uncertain once he has done his time in youth ministocks at the end of this season. A talented Year 11 student at Nelson College, he has two years left in Nelson before tertiary study beckons. The TQ class appeals but maybe uni will get in the way. “It’s the direction I would love to head because they are wicked little cars and you don’t have as much work between meetings as you might with a stockcar. I think I might end up taking next season off and then we can see what happens with uni and where I am – rally was the other possibility but people keep pushing me towards TQs and the class looks like a lot of fast fun.”

  • Cameron Thompson’s 95N Nissan ministock is backed by his family, Nelson European Car Specialists, Whitfield Consulting, TJ Hoult Engineering, All Stainless Ltd, Sourced IT, Tyres and More, Rick Bishop Design, FWD Spares and the Collision Repair Centre.
  • While the popular fireworks display is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, the Nelson Speedway Association has a solid show programmed from 6pm on Saturday. The Southern Midget Series brings the class to town again, with a field of around 10 being stitched together, while the youth ministocks and sprintcars will compete for their Trackman Trophies and TQs will race round one of their club champs. Tickets can be purchased prior to race night from the Richmond Mall info desk.

Photos by Tom Laney, www.imagepress.co.nz   Pits photo, Shaun Mahon