Feb 16, 2014

Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park | A New Racing Experience

You know, it's not too often that a track opens up near your neck of the woods. Naturally when Thompson announced their plans to build a new road course for 2014, we as track enthusiasts were ecstatic to say the least. Now with a bit of tarmac on the ground, the staff was ready to host an open house event and of course, SHG was there to check it out.

Now when I say neck of the woods, I really do mean it. Thompson is only a short drive from all of us since it's located right on the border between MA/CT/RI. Under an hour away for most SHG members and considering how far apart we reside, that's a meaningful figure. I can only think of the possibilities this opens up. Not having to make a 6-7 hour trip the day before a soukoukai is certainly a relief on its own. Add on top the luxury of sleeping in your own bed and having the option of bringing a support vehicle to haul extra gear is a big bonus.

For once the roads were clear of slush and since Elyson's place was more or less on the way, we made a quick stop at his local carwash to give Evan's CRV a thorough cleaning. As for Elyson's Civic, it was already clean so on the way to the track I helped myself to some rolling shots of it because let's face it, the thing just looks immaculate!

Arriving there we headed inside the new timing and control tower as they had some excellent snacks and drinks; so good that we were in no rush to see the track–true story! As you can see it's brand spanking new, having been built just a few months ago and completed over the winter.

The Jetta TDI cup car parked outside sporting a livery of their primary sponsor, Mohegan Sun, is one of many that will be used for the racing school hosted here at Thompson. An excellent way to keep perfectly functioning race cars on the track since the series was discontinued in 2011.

Getting down to the nuts and bolts while going over their brochure, I learned that Thompson will be offering different membership packages to allow different levels of access to the track, as well as their own golf club right next door. In other words, Disneyland for adults.

Exclusive member only track days are one of the perks as various events will be held throughout the season.

As far as the layout is concerned, it'll be a 1.7 mile long clockwise configuration with fast sections and a fair share of run off area. Once it's all said and done there'll even be a skid pad/autocross area and a quarter midget facility.

Talking to the staff it was clear that they were not only well informed about all of the details but also enthusiasts like us with a passion for road racing. The calendar especially reflects that, already there are over 110 events booked for the 2014 season between cars, motorcycles, races and racing school events.

Taking advantage of the view from the tower and looking back at the last corner leading onto the main straight, the elevation change is quite apparent and will definitely make for a fun exit.

The track was damp from the snow melting from a recent storm but once the vegetation grows back in the spring everything will look a lot more vibrant than the gloomy state you see above.

Before heading out there, one more thing was left to do in the paddock area. We just had to check out the nearly finished 30 stall garage which will be available for all events, including track days.

Inside, the exotics from Circuit One hibernate during the off season. Essentially, in the warmer months the Circuit One driving experience allows anyone over the age of 21 to sign up and take laps around a course with an instructor riding along in the passenger seat.

A rather inexpensive way to get behind the wheel of some properly quick cars while learning good car control techniques. Another unique experience to be had here at TSMP.

With so many tempting choices, the question that's begging to be answered is which one to pick...

Ah decisions, decisions...

S C U D E R I A  F E R R A R I ///

Time was ticking fast and with the limited winter sunlight, I knew that I had to be on the move so along with Mike, Lauren and Theresa we hopped in the Fit while Evan rode with Elyson in the Civic for company and not to mention keep the CRV clean as there was no reason to get it dirty.

Abel and Joe came in the GTR so they brought it out to play as well.

Since there are still sections of the track that haven't been paved due to the low temperatures, we decided to go backwards at the earliest point before working our way forward. 

There's been some worry about oval events being abandoned with the introduction of the road course but that's certainly not the case. In fact, there's a full schedule set for 2014 including 3 NASCAR Wheelen Modified tour events–something for everyone.

The road course will be going in the opposite way the oval is normally used and with its own dedicated inside turn instead of the banked asphalt for safety reasons. Above the guys above demonstrate the correct direction on the new pavement.

Coming out of the oval turn there is a short straight before turning left into The Chute where you see the opening in the wall.

The Chute is a fast downhill sweeping left hander....

...that feeds onto an uphill/downhill right hander known as the Diving Turn.

It's got a nice bit of camber to assist in carrying entry speed that then disappears as you make your way out. It will keep riders and drivers on their toes anxious to put the power down and double guessing themselves on which line to take for the quickest getaway.

 Flowing smoothly onto a very short straightaway...

...before coming to this right hander, the final corner or pair of corners that lead onto the Sassoon straight. I say that because it has a bend towards the end that might be considered it's own turn but it's quite mild and could be classified as either; trifle technicalities really.

Somewhere towards the middle is where the start/finish line will be, before getting to the Dog Leg; the left hand kink. It's worth mentioning that the asphalt you see is not final as there is still a finer layer to be layed on top.

The first section involves a double apex right hander that will be quite tricky to take. Between choosing where to apex and speed, the Golf Club Turn will be an area of much improvement as the laps go on.

In theory geese also migrate to the south in the winter, yet here they are. When the rubber meets the tarmac in early June we'll find out correct approach. Until then, it's back to theory...

Being a huge fan of Japanese tracks with lots of elevation change and consecutive corners, Thompson is for me a dream come true. Its twisty layout will suit the nimble handling characteristics of our cars and driving styles quite well.

The run down to turn 3 is also advantageous to our lighweight machines and will reward good braking technique for those willing to push it with confidence. I'd probably be excited about this section but thinking ahead of the next ones, it's hard to choose favorites since they all have something special to offer.

The generous width here is another distinctive feature of this section that should make for some interesting passes during race events. On track days it'll be more about straightening the corners and maintaining momentum.

There's a quick run up after turn 3 that builds up to the Clubhouse Turn or alternatively, a shorcut configuration right out of turn 3 that skips the straight and Clubhouse all together.

Looking ahead, it almost looks to fade onto thin air and while that's just perception, it also highlights the acuteness of the hairpin that will punish you for the slightest mistakes. Rear wheel drive cars will be challenged in bringing entry speed without getting squirmy on exit and front wheel drives plagued with understeer on entry. This will be a corner to watch.

It's sort of neutral or maybe slightly off camber after the apex and could quite easily top the list as the hardest turn at Thompson. Proceed with caution friends!

Coming back down is where the paved area stops.  To paint a full picture nonetheless, after the bridge hairpin the track will rejoin the oval for a straightaway before the oval turn where we begun the tour. The bridge itself is a nice addition as it will provide access to the track directly to the paddock.

This should hopefully give you a pretty good idea of what Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park will be once completed. Having a brand new facility of this pedigree so conveniently located is truly a treat and one that we'll be taking advantage of. We'll be coming back here this year for a track day or two so it will be interesting to look back in retrospect as respect to how far things will have progressed by that point.

Below is a video taken by Evan from a moving perspective, enjoy!

To wrap things up I've included a short overview below of the groups who will be hosting events so that you are informed on who to get in touch with along with a couple of dates of large events.


SCDA - Track Days
EMRA -Time Trials/Track Days
SCCA - will hold two club race events
NASA NorthEast - will hold one club race event
Boston BMWCCA - Track Days
Porsche Club CVR and NCR regions - Track Days
Hooked on Driving - Track Days
COM Sports Car Club - Time Trials/Track Days


Penguin Racing School
Tony's Track Days
Fishtail Riding School

Large events:

Ice Breaker - April 5-6
The Vintage Motorsports Festival - June 27-29
Formula Championship Series - August 29-31

For any additional info be sure to visit TSMP's official website and their facebook page to stay up to date on the latest news. For those who attended, feel free to get in touch to request pictures of your rides. Finally, major thanks goes to the staff for hosting a welcoming open house and working hard for providing us enthusiasts with a place to enjoy our hobby properly and above all, safely.