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.
2005 – Building Upon a Dream
2005 was another building year for Karl and Compass360/Racing. With his Z3 Coupe program ironed out and a new branded livery, Karl decided to field two BMWs for the season. This would bring in two more funded drivers and provide some economy of scale on his team infrastructure.
Sadly, work commitments and other factors made it impracticable for me to directly assist anymore. However, from that point forward, Compass360/Racing had no bigger emotional supporter than me outside of Karl’s immediate family.
I made a point of wishing Karl luck before the weekend. I looked forward to the results and the ensuing dialogue that followed a race weekend. The races were tape delayed on Speed TV, so I enjoyed the live Internet streams when available.
Grand-Am Cup 200 (February 3 – 4, 2005)
As was my habit, I flew down to Daytona for the Rolex 24. As planned, Karl was now fielding two Z3 Coupes in the Grand-Am Cup series. Practice brought on a clutch failure with an incompatible spare. Even though Karl was fielding two Z3s, there was significant variations between the two models. After significant delays and lost practice time searching for a clutch, the car failed to qualify. Karl would start again at the back of the pack in Daytona.
However, this was no longer the Karl from 2004. Karl had mastered the art of the Z3 after a grueling first season. In only 20 laps, Karl had gone from the back of the back to sixth in class. A timely yellow would see a driver change with fifth place within reach.
Additional heavy clutch abuse by Karl’s Co-Driver marked the first DNF for Compass360/Racing. The worn out #06 was showing its age and Karl’s frustration with revolving co-drivers was starting to fuel his desire for additional team improvements. Daytona would show a twelfth and an upsetting twentieth for the dual entrant. Daytona was still very much Karl’s nemesis.
California 200 (April 1 – 2, 2005)
California (Fontana) would see Karl again qualifying and thus starting the race. This routine started earning Karl a good reputation around the paddock for caring for the car during the first stint. Sadly, the same could not always be said about the remaining driver lineup.
Another weekend, another engine failure for the #36. This one was caused by aggressive turtle humping (technical term for bouncing off the apex cement ;-)). Karl showed his skill with the old Z3 by bringing the car up to sixth going into the driver change. Karl and the #06 finished seventh and the #36 would do enough snail laps to earn twentieth.
In between races, Karl went on to win our local karting championship beating his own crew chief. Ian is not only a great race mechanic, but a consistent and super fast karter beating pros his junior.
U.S. Sports Car Invitational (April 29 – 30, 2005)
Going into Laguna Seca, the cars enjoyed a much needed refresh having remained in California between races.
Laguna Seca is my second favourite track in the world (Mosport being #1). It is home however to my favourite corner in the world, the famous corkscrew. The corkscrew was made even more famous by Alex Zanardi‘s last lap pass on Brian Herta in 1986. The move is simply remembered as “the pass.”
The racing spirit of Alex Zanardi must have been with Karl that weekend. In one of his attempts at mastering the corkscrew, Karl found himself involuntarily mimicking Zarnadi’s line. Thankfully a fan managed to film Karl narrowly avoiding writing off the car.
Laguna welcomed the addition of future regular Compass360 driver and Laguna Seca master Billy Johnson. In addition, one of NASCAR’s grandsons drove for Compass360/Racing. J.C. France is the grandson of NASCARs founder Bill France and nephew of Bill France, Jr. He is also known for his on track aggression. J.C. was using the support race as a means of familiarizing himself with Laguna. His normal ride is a Brumos Porsche Daytona Prototype running in the primary series.
J.C. France qualified the car and started the race in the #06. Billy in the #36 would easily outpower J.C. France during the opening stint earning him the grunt of J.C. bruised ego. A large off by J.C. caused the #06 to spend most of the race in the garage. This earned the #06 a disappointing twentieth with Billy Johnson in the #36 finishing a happy ninth.
Awaiting the next Grand-Am Cup race, Compass360/Racing continued fielding entries in the GT-A Ontario Regional Championship. Compass360/Racing driver Dave Ciekiewicz was consistently earning top spots putting him in the lead in the GT-A championship.
The team also made use of these regional races to put in some additional track time with the Z3s. This allowed Crew Chief Ian his chance to race the Z3 at our local tracks: Mosport and Shannonville.
Chemung Canal Trust 200 (June 9 – 11, 2005)
Regional racing behind them, the team headed off to Watkins Glen. As with every Watkins Glen event, the field count was quite large. A total of 74 entered the race making it quite hazardous. Avoidable penalties and unavoidable contact would take their toll on Compass360/Racing that weekend. The race would be a series of cautions breeding cautions with only the cautious and the lucky surviving to tell the tale.
With a growing TV audience (over a million at this point) the need to perform was now equally matched by the need to entertain. Caution filled races do not make up for the temporary excitement that comes from watching accidents play out. Grand-Am needed to take note.
The team left The Glen with the #36 finishing in sixteenth place and the #06 in 27th.
The next two months brought a flurry of activity and four Grand-Am Cup races: Mosport, Barber, Trois Rivieres and Mid-Ohio.
Mosport 200 (June 17 – 19, 2005)
Mosport marked the first time since Daytona that I would be able to watch the race live and in person. Paul Bruch continued to lend a helping hand for the “local” races. It was that weekend where I realized how much I was missing being at the track with the team.
This was Karl’s home track and the pressure was on to get a good result. Karl managed a disappointing eleventh in the #06, while the #36 came in an even more disappointing twentieth.
Barber Park 200 (July 29 – 30, 2005)
The next race brought the team to Alabama. Little is known about this race weekend apart from those in attendance. Barber would see the #06 finish ninth with the #36 finishing seventeenth.
Trois-Rivieres 150 (August 5 – 7, 2005)
Trois-Rivieres saw Karl finish 8th in the #06 in front of a well televised and enthusiastic crowd. The team really enjoys going to Trois-Rivieres to this day. Crew Chief Ian in a rare entry in the #36 finished a distant 22th due to driver error. The irony was that Ian hit the tire wall while making sure Karl was safely lapping him.
EMCO Gears Classic (August 26 – 28, 2005)
Mid-Ohio saw the spectacular crash of driver Shawn Greene in the #36. During final practice, an aggressive Porsche made contact with the #36 in Turn One sending it spinning off the track. Shawn was airlifted to have surgery to repair his femur and pelvis. The #36 clearly would not start the race and potentially would never race again.
Billy Johnson narrowly missed getting pole position in the #06. Billy started the race in second and Karl finished the race in eight.
Phoenix Twin 200’s (September 8 – 9, 2005)
Phoenix saw the lone #06 take the field after the crash of the #36 at Mid-Ohio. It made it to second place only to retire to the garage in a cloud of smoke a blown drive shaft. The team left Phoenix with a missed opportunity and a seventeenth for their traveled distance.
VIR 400 presented by SunTrust (October 7 – 8, 2005)
The missed opportunity of Phoenix must have been weighing heavily on the team going into the final race in Virginia. The #36 finished the race in a heartbreaking 26th.
The story of the race was Karl Thomson winning his first professional race in the #06. With a great call from the pits and a rain shortened race, the #06 was in the lead when it mattered most.
Any driver who says that winning under yellow is not as rewarding as under green is lying to you. A win is a win and every one that you get could be your last for a lifetime. You only have to look at Karl’s face to recognize the joy of someone achieving a dream in their lifetime.
2004 Season Enclosed Thoughts
Karl put an exclamation point on his 2005 season with his first professional win. Not only as a driver, but also as a team owner. In only his second full year of professional racing, Karl made it clear that he and Compass360/Racing were becoming a force to be contended with.
Karl finished the season sixteenth in the championship with 167 points. Defending champion Sylvain Tremblay with his fully funded program again won the championship with 287 points.
2005 Grand-Am Cup Trophies and Contributions
- Win – Virginia International Raceway
- Manufacturer’s Championship – BMW
The story of Karl’s quest continues in 2006 – A Partnership of Sorts.