Young potential superstar Colin Thompson has a simple goal for his professional racing career - to become a factory Porsche driver.
He's well on his way to living up to the lofty standards of his idol, two-time Sebring 12 Hours winner Al Holbert. His ties to Holbert - owner and driver of the legendary No. 14 Lowenbrau Porsche 962 - are strong. Colin's grandfather, Jack, raced with Al's dad, Bob, and Colin's dad, John, knew and worked with Al. John had arranged a test drive of the Lowenbrau Porsche 962 GTP car just prior to Al's tragic death in a private plane crash in 1988 - way before before Colin was born (in 1994).
Today, Jack owns Al's old Porsche dealership, now called Porsche of Bucks County, Pa., and Colin's team is based there.
Thompson is one of the top entries in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama support races today and Friday at Sebring International Raceway, part of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida race week.
Yes, Thompson is driving car No. 14, in part in Holbert's honor and in part as Colin's ongoing motivation for improving his driving skills while maintaining Holbert's life standards.
"It is an honor to drive the number 14 Porsche," says Thompson, who just turned 20. "I heard stories from my grandfather and my dad about Al Holbert. From what they were telling me, Al Holbert became an icon for me for his racing accomplishments and the respect he earned as a man. He was an honorable person, a man to look up to.
"Al Holbert brought that honor to the racetrack. He represented Porsche and he was one of the greatest drivers of all time. He became one of my idols, so now I want to live up to his reputation."
Thompson began racing quarter-midgets at age 5. He continued in oval racing until he switched to road racing at age 15 in the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup as the youngest driver ever in the series.
Thompson then raced in Skip Barber, Formula Ford and the USF2000 series in 2011 and 2012 before moving to the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama with family-owned Thompson Racing in 2013.
He finished eighth in the standings with a best finish of second in Race 1 at Road Atlanta during Petit Le Mans.
For this season, Thompson has moved to Kelly-Moss Motorsports, one of the top customer focused teams in motorsports, driving a Platinum Cup Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
The IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama is a spec series, and Thompson is in the Platinum (highest) class. All Platinum Cup drivers will race in the 2014 version of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, developed for Porsche one-make Cups worldwide and based on the street version of the current Porsche 911.
The 3.8-liter power unit featured in the new 911 GT3 Cup car produces 460 horsepower and a maximum engine speed of 8,500 rpm. The new 911 GT3 Cup also includes a new Porsche six-speed sequential gearbox with a mechanical slip differential, with an electro-pneumatic paddle shift system creating faster, more efficient gear changes.
"I have grown up in spec series from age 5 -- Skip Barber, Formula Fords," Thompson said. "I've always had that challenge of comparing myself with the other drivers so I'm never complaining about the car until I was doing what they were doing (lap times). It humbles you a lot when you go out there when you're in the same car and you're off. It makes you feel better as a driver when you go out there and match their times and then better them yourself."
Thompson has been near the top of the time charts this week during testing and practice and hopes to challenge for the overall victory in both of his season-opening races. Race 1 is at 3:05 p.m. today and Race 2 is set to take the green flag at 8:55 a.m. Friday. Both races will be for 45 minutes.
"My goal is to win the Porsche Cup championship this year," Thompson says without a smug of arrogance (because that would be the Al Holbert way of saying it).
And that would be the next step to his ultimate goal of becoming a Porsche factory driver, joining the illustrious company of Peter Gregg, Hurley Haywood, Price Cobb, Patrick Long and Randy Pobst - the only American drivers to ever be under contract as factory drivers for Porsche.
Al Holbert was a Porsche employee - dealer owner and head of Porsche Motorsports - during his heydays of the IMSA Camel GT days.