Legendary American road racer Dr. Dick Thompson, known to generations of fans as “The Flying Dentist”, passed away on September 14, 2014 from natural causes at the age of 94.
Thompson began racing relatively late in life with no formal training, no engineering background, and no mechanical experience to draw upon, but he did have that innate ability that defines truly great racers.
By the time he retired from the sport after 19 years he’d driven some of the greatest production and sports racing cars ever created, won class or overall wins in many of the world’s major racing venues, and earned an impressive nine SCCA national championships.
Five of those championships were garnered racing Corvettes, the nameplate with which Thompson is most closely associated, and one that he helped save by transforming competition success into a better car and much improved sales figures beginning in 1956.
After racing from 1952 through 1955 with other marques, Thompson began his relationship with Chevrolet in 1956, courtesy of a recommendation from John Fitch.
Thompson went on to drive Corvettes to the C-Production championship in 1956 and the B-production title in ’57. He also co-drove a Corvette to GT victory at Sebring in 1957.
Various other successes followed, with further SCCA national championships and C-modified national titles achieved. After meeting famed sportsman Briggs Cunningham in 1959, Thompson raced a variety of cars for him in the next few years, including Corvettes, Lister Jaguars, Ferraris, and Maseratis.
Highlights once Gulf Oil switched to Ford included a GT class win at Le Mans in 1965 co-driving a Cobra roadster with Jack Sears, and overall victory at Spa in 1967 co-driving a Gulf Mirage with Jackie Ickx. A gentleman both on and off-track, he retired from racing cars in 1968.