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Thompson “Appreciated” Role Reversal That Led to GTD Win

Parker Thompson on Vasser Sullivan’s Lexus Long Beach GTD victory, remainder-of-season approach…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Parker Thompson said he “appreciated” the role reversal he was put in for this weekend’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach that saw he and guest GTD co-driver Ben Barnicoat net top class honors.

The rising Canadian star qualified on pole in the No. 89 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 and controlled the first stanza of Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race before handing over to Barnicoat to take victory.

It came in an extra Vasser Sullivan-entered Lexus, that saw No. 12 car full-season drivers Thompson and Frankie Montecalvo split up and paired with the team’s GTD Pro pilots, who were not originally scheduled to race this event.

For Thompson, who is in a new role of being the ‘closer’ of the No. 12 Lexus in his first full-season WeatherTech Championship drive with the team, the Long Beach event proved to be fruitful experience of having Barnicoat take that role.

“I really appreciated what [team co-owners] Jimmy [Vasser] and ‘Sulli’ [Sullivan] did this weekend,” he said.

“I know it could be controversial on some points but it’s only my sixth WeatherTech race and there’s still a lot for me to learn.

“It was my first street course in the Lexus RC F.

“The difference between closing out the race vs. getting a little more time to prep for qualifying, go out and execute in qualifying, and then giving it off to an experienced driver, I really appreciated.

“It was unique working with the 14 group but I had experience working with Geoff Fickling and we’ve had success.

“Right now, I think, we’re sitting one-for-one on the Lexus Racing/Vasser Sullivan side but we’ve also won some races together in some other series.

“That continuity was good.

“But seeing how the other side of the team works was awesome and I think it’s just going to give me insight to how I have to carry that as the lead of the 12 [car] going forward for the rest of the season.”

While now sitting third in the GTD drivers’ championship, off-sequence on points with Montecalvo, who will complete the GTD season together in the No. 12 Lexus, Thompson indicated that it won’t change his approach.

“Across the board, I think this is going to be a learning year for me no matter what,” he said.

“Obviously you can win in learning years and challenge for a championship, so that doesn’t take away anything of our target.

“But at the same time, I’ve got a lot to learn being a ‘closer’ in the IMSA WeatherTech competition, especially in the GTD category.

“It’s different to GTD Pro. It’s different when you’ve got that dynamic with so many more variables and a lot of the time, more cars.

“I head to Laguna [Seca] in very high spirits because Frankie is on top form. This guy is aging like fine wine and just seems to be getting faster.

“He’s hot on my heels and if we can just continue to teach him how to get the peak out of the Michelin tires, qualify up front and then drive off or defend, I think we’re going to be winning a lot more races on the 12 side.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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