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350 Fall 2015


September 14, 2014

Dick Thompson, known as “The

Flying Dentist,” was one of the earliest

serious sports car racers in this coun-

try. His first race was the inaugural 12-

Hours of Sebring in 1952. He and a

friend drove his MGTD from Washing-

ton D.C., finished eighth overall in the

race and then drove it back home. He

continued racing until retiring in 1968

and in those 16 years he won nine




Thompson, a fourth generation Wash-

ington D.C. resident, was a dentist in

the Navy during WWII and then joined

his father’s practice when he returned

to civilian life. He took a liking to sports

cars and began driving in competition

in the early 1950s.

In those days, sports car racing

was like a large fraternity where every-

one got to know everyone else as their

paths crossed continually. While SCCA

national and regional races were

shorter sprints, usually only a half-

hour in length, the longer events like

Sebring, Daytona, Bridgehampton and

Watkins Glen (not to mention races in

Europe) required at least two drivers.

Experienced drivers like Thompson

who may not have had a car for a spe-

cific race found no problem getting a

ride with someone who did.

Thompson was probably best known

for driving Corvettes, which accounted for

five of his national championships (1956,

1957, 1960, 1961 and 1962). In 1957 John

Fitch invited him to join the GM team at

Sebring where he finished second in class.

He became one of Briggs Cunningham’s

drivers in Lister Jaguars, Corvettes and

Maseratis. Gulf sponsored its first GT40 in

1965 and Thompson was asked to drive it.

He also drove the Essex Wire 427 Cobra in

a few USRRC events. When Ford needed a

dozen drivers in 1966 for their GT40 ar-

mada at LeMans, Thompson was one of

those tapped to drive a MK II. He also

raced a 1965 Mustang notchback in the

first Trans-Am event. Shelby put him on

the Cobra Team in 1965 and he drove a

Daytona Coupe at LeMans. In 1967 he was

one of Shelby’s Trans-Am drivers.

He also drove a Gulf Mirage in five

European races. He said his race in the

rain in 1967 at Spa in Belgium, when he

was slipping, sliding and hydroplaning

all over the track, contributed to his de-

cision to retire two years later when he

was 49. His final drive at LeMans was

in 1968 at the wheel of the Howmet TX


Thompson was inducted into the

Corvette Hall of Fame in 2000 and in

the LeMans Drivers Hall of Fame in

2007. On occasion he was invited to

drive in vintage races, in cars he had

originally raced.

Automotive writer/photographer

Art Evans said of Thompson, “


though he always exhibited skill,

courage and stamina, he was known as

a consummate gentleman both on and

off the track. He raced just for the joy

of it

.” He was retired, living in Florida

when he died of pneumonia at 94.