I hope you all enjoy this recounting of Karl’s hunt for that elusive professional racing championship. If you enjoy this telling tale of a brand and a dream, please rate/comment and pay it forward by sharing it.
2006 – A Partnership of Sorts
2006 was a transition year for Karl Thomson and Compass360/Racing. It marked major changes to the team infrastructure, a new manufacturer, a reduced racing schedule, and a significant expansion of Karl’s Compass360 branding endeavors in professional racing both inside and outside the paddock. Karl’s day job as Creative Director and Managing Partner at Compass360 was gaining success and awards as well.
A mere month before the Daytona race, Karl, while skiing, was cut off by a snowboarder and suffered a bad fall. Surgery for a broken clavicle meant two months of therapy before having the strength to drive the race car.
This is one of the reasons why racing drivers often feel safer on a race track than off it. A Daytona victory again proved itself illusive to Karl. It also meant that for the first time in years, I would be going to Daytona solo.
This year also brought the start of a new relationship for the team. Compass360 would team up with fellow Toronto entrants Kensai Racing for a partial 2006 season. This partnership allowed Karl to focus on his driving duties and leave the team and car management to Ray Lee. In addition, Karl now handled the branding, promotions and public relations efforts for Kensai Racing. This marked a very strong partnership of two very talented racing professionals.
This new program saw a significant shift from rear wheel to front wheel drive. Kensai would be prepping an Acura RSX-S for Karl racing now under the #76.
Daytona International Speedway (January 26 – 29, 2006)
Regular Kensai Racing driver Travis Walker set pole position at Daytona in his first attempt. Kensai Racing was bringing the right racing attitude and mechanical capabilities to Compass360/Racing.
Virginia International Raceway (April 21 – 23, 2006)
Virginia marked the return of Karl Thomson behind the wheel of a race car. It also saw the 3-day old #76 Acura RSX-S see a race track for the first time. The defending race champion experienced a weekend full of rain and track carnage.
Starting from the back of the pack, they ended the race at the end of the pack. Karl finished twentieth in the #76 with the #75 in 22nd. This was not what Karl had in mind when he partnered with Kensai Racing. Ray Lee knew however that VIR was not a true representation of the cars potential.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (May 5 – 7, 2006)
Laguna Seca saw the return of super fast and track specialist Billy Johnson as Karl’s co-driver. Billy had impressed Karl when they paired up the previous year. Having Billy in the car would lead to increased television coverage of the Compass360 brand. Billy kept the eye of the camera on the #76 as he challenged the field.
Laguna Seca also saw my return to a race track as I was in Santa Monica on business that week. It was well worth the drive up to Monterey to watch Karl race at my second favourite track in the world. I even got to take a rental car for a parade lap with Karl giving me insight on his racing line. Racing Tip: The key to the corkscrew is the tree going down the hill.
I got to watch the race from all parts of the track with the occasional visits to the pits to watch the team in action. Seeing Karl go through the corkscrew in race conditions needed to be seen in person. I am glad I could make the race. Karl had the car in eight when a yellow brought forth a driver change. Billy took the car and led the field until contact with another car gave him pause. A penalized contact by another car put him off the track losing valuable positions. The tension and frustration in the pits was noticeable. With the end of the race in sight, Billy forged on and brought the #76 home in fourth with the win just out of reach.
Avendale Mazda Twin 200s (May 11 – 13, 2006)
Karl would miss Phoenix having opted for a partial schedule this year. The race would see green to green flag racing with mechanical woes affecting both cars. The team earned a ninth and frustrating 24th after showing much promise in the race.
Lime Rock Park (May 26 – 29, 2006)
Karl returned to the team for the Lime Rock race. The #75 experienced weekend ending damage at the hands of Tom Nastasi during practice. Karl would go on to qualify the #76 fourth.
In only the third lap of the race, while attempting to pass for third, Karl would be nudged damaging the suspension. This left both cars out of the race and very little to show for the promise of a strong driver lineup and well prepared cars. The team left Ohio with two busted cars and only a DNS and a DNF for their efforts.
Karl and Compass360/Racing also fielded a 1994 Mazda RX-7 in selected CASC events. Karl would win all three OCC GTA sprints and finished second in TGTC. In only his first weekend in the #360, Karl made it clear to the regional racers that his time was well spent in Grand-Am Cup.
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (June 23 – 25, 2006)
In Ohio, Karl qualified the #76 in seventh. He would bring the Acura RSX-S for the drivers change in fourth having run as high as second. Travis Walker in the #75 also ran as high as second. With two podium positions in sight, the team was rewarded with another shunt that destroyed the #75.
Veteran Taz Harvey would barrel role the car five time in a three-way fight through corner one. This was the same corner that Shawn Greene had his major accident back in 2005. Mid-Ohio was not being kind to the team’s cars. With a late race penalty, for too many crew members over pit wall, Karl and the #76 were regulated from fourth to fifth.
Barber Motorsports Park (July 28 – 30, 2006)
With the #75 destroyed and no replacement built in time for Barber, Karl would sit out the race. The #76 would be driven instead by Travis Walker.
Travis had just earned Inside Track’s “Up and Coming Road Racer of the Year” award. He went on to put the car on pole for the race. Clearly his desire for a win was fueled further by past failed attempts. A race incident brought Travis in for a stop-and-go penalty dashing his chances for a win in Alabama. The team would again not have the results that matched the car and team’s potential.
Trois-Rivieres, Quebec (August 4 – 6, 2006)
Trois Rivieres saw a new #75 take the field and the return of Karl behind the wheel of the #76. Karl was fortunate to have Mathieu Audette as his Co-Driver that weekend. Mathieu was leading the Federation de l’Automobile du Quebec championship and knew the track very well.
Since Barber, the #76 had developed some mechanical and electrical gremlins. Those gremlins turned into a complete engine failure during practice. A new engine installed that evening would prove unreliable during qualifying. The #76 would be starting near the back of the field with the #75 starting fourteenth in its first race.
Eager to make up for lost ground, Mathieu was dashing through the field with great skill and familiarity in the #76. In the fastest part of the course, he made contact with another car and hit both side walls hard. To make matters worse, the Acura was then hit by another car at full speed while stationary. Audette was removed from the car by the safety crew and brought to a hospital for tests.
This accident caused a 20 minute caution as the debris and damage was so excessive. With the car severely damaged, Kensai Racing would not have a car ready for the next race. The #75 would go on to finish eleventh in its racing debut. Karl failed to race in Trois Rivieres. The #76 registered a DNF.
Due to the accident, Kensai Racing decided not to field any cars at Miller. Instead, Ray and the team would focus on the season finale at VIR. Roar Racing opted to hire Karl for some on track and off track experience and exposure.
Miller Motorsports Park (August 31 – September 2, 2006)
Utah would see Billy Johnson and Karl Thomson again as Co-Drivers. This time however, it would be in the #62 Mazda RX-8. After some tuning advice from the new drivers, the car was ready for the race, setting third fastest time in final practice. Roar Racing was still learning to work as a team and the RX-8 was fuel hungry requiring additional stops. This left the #62 finishing in eleventh. A very disappointed Karl returning to Kensai Racing.
Awaiting the next race in Virginia, Karl returned to compete in the regional Ontario Challenge Cup. The Compass360/Racing RX-7 #360 reached the podium with a second in TGTC-GT and a 3rd in OCC GTA.
VIR Twin 6 Hour Enduros (October 6 – 8, 2006)
Virginia would see only the lone surviving Kensai Racing RSX-S entered in the race. Karl Thomson joined Travis Walker in the #75. Being a six-hour race, Nick Wittmer signed on making for an all Canadian entry.
Travis qualified the car in sixth in a field of 34 cars. Travis started and finished the race with Nick and Karl doing the middle stints. Through heads-up driving and pit calls with mixed results, the team would finish the race an impressive fourth.
2006 Season Enclosed Thoughts
In a reduced season, Karl had registered three top five finishes in only six races. Karl ranked nineteenth with 115 points edging out Travis Walker. Class of the field Turner Motorsports would win the championship with 295 points.
Kensai Racing’s efforts during the season helped give Acura the Manufacturer’s Championship.
2006 Grand-Am Cup Trophies and Contributions
- Manufacturer’s Championship – Acura
The story of Karl’s quest continues in 2007 – A Hard Fought Year.