IMSA Spotlight: Karl Thomson
Team Principal: C360R
What does it mean to you for your team to record the first North American win for the 570S GT4?
“We’ve really enjoyed working with McLaren over the past six months to develop their new 570S GT4. We’ve spent a lot of time testing at various tracks around the country and have built a great relationship with their technical staff, so to win in our third IMSA race weekend is especially gratifying.
“It’s a testament to the entire team, both at our facility in Toronto and the folks at McLaren’s base in Woking, England, to be successful with such a new platform. So I get to stand on the podium with our drivers and raise the trophy, but that’s the result of a lot of hard and smart work from a bunch of people.”
Was a win this early in the season something you thought possible when the season began, and does it reset the bar for rest of the year?
“Although this was only the third race of the CTSC season, we’ve logged a lot of laps in testing since the beginning of the year. The 570S GT4 platform was quite good out of the box, but we’ve had the opportunity to really understand what gets the extra few tenths out of the car at different kinds of tracks. That’s huge.
“Beyond that, I think we have the best driver pairings in the series. Paul Holton delivered our team’s first GS-class pole position last weekend and led for his entire stint; Mathew Keegan started close behind in third place. In the closing stages, both Matt Plumb and Nico Rondet drove smart, clean races and delivered when it mattered.
“So whilst I would never take the results for granted, I do feel like we’ve collectively put in the work and deserve the result at COTA, which puts our McLarens in third and fourth place in the championship. We’ve been in the hunt before and know you just take it race by race and keep pushing at each event.”
How has your relationship with McLaren developed throughout the course of the season so far?
“As I mentioned, the support from Woking has been exemplary. They have engineering staff with us at every race, and our Technical Director, Ray Lee, is in close contact with their people between races as we develop the package. We’ve had a lot of manufacturer partners over the years, including Honda, Ford and Audi, and we’re pleased to have such a strong relationship with McLaren so early on.”
How much cooperation is there between McLaren teams in the series, especially since the car is so new to everyone?
“All of the teams of a given marque know their car company values the Manufacturer’s Championship above all others, and so I think we’re all mindful of that as we chase Driver and Team Championships. At the same time, each team wants to be the top McLaren. Although I was happy for fellow Canadians Jesse Lazare and Chris Green for their second place at Sebring (where Keegan and Rondet finished third), Ray and I were a lot happier with the result in Austin!
“We don’t share set-up notes between the teams, but we do help each other out with parts and equipment sharing. The guys at MIA were short a part at COTA, for example, and we pulled that out of our spares so they could continue to run. They’ve done the same for us.”
How would you assess the beginning of the GT4 era in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge?
“I’ve been a vocal supporter of IMSA’s adoption of the GT4 rules since they first floated the balloon. I think the worldwide homologation is a really good thing, as it gives us a stable set of rules to work with, and a larger market to sell our cars when we’ve finished with them.
“I’m also a fan of IMSA’s insistence that the GT4 cars that are eligible to run in CTSC be based on road-going cars available for sale in North America. It honors the history of the series, which traces its roots back to the Motorola Cup and Firehawk series, and it makes for a stronger connection to our fans, who can relate to the cars we race.
“If you look at the cars currently racing, and what’s coming in the next six months, you’ve got an amazing collection of sexy cars that are going to make for an even better show. In addition to the current Porsche Cayman GT4, Aston Martin, Mustang GT4 and McLaren, we saw the introduction of the new Camaro GT4 at COTA, and Audi recently unveiled their R8 GT4 in New York.
“BMW ran their M4 GT4 at Dubai earlier this year, and we expect Mercedes to launch their GT AMG GT4 before the end of the year. That’s going to be one heck of a grid, don’t you think?”