NOT many can run inside the top ten at British Supersport then turn around and win at the Ulster Grand Prix, but Joey Thompson is hoping to make it habit.
The young Yorkshireman has taken quite a few critics by surprise this year in his first full season of road racing, bagging a Dundrod 150 win and a handful of dominant victories at Oliver’s Mount while still maintaining his winning ways in the clubs with six top-step finishes in Thundersport GB’s Supertwin class.
Thompson is heading into what he says will be a long off-season, but has a packed programme of racing planned for 2018 including the North West, the Isle of Man TT, the Ulster, Oliver’s Mount, eight rounds of British Supersport and select Thundersport GB events.
With that many rides lined up, Phil Atkinson better look out – his reign as the busiest rider in club racing is coming under serious threat.
“I don’t want to be in one of those teams where you’re under contract and you can’t go and ride for different people,” Thompson told UK Clubsport. “I don’t ride for anyone but myself – I’ll ride where I want when I want… at the end of the day, we all do it for fun don’t we?”
“I’m looking forward to getting on next year and riding as many bikes as we can, but my focus is on the roads. To be honest I think it’s where I have a future.
“I still love circuit racing and I like switching between the two. It’s like you almost do two different sports, you do the road racing where everyone says you ride at 90%, but you don’t… everyone’s going over 100% on the roads, you just ride with a bit more knowledge.
“You always make sure you’ve got one inch each side of the road but you still go 100% to that. It’s complicated but I like the short circuits because you can almost set your brain on and go as fast as you can.”
Although Thompson packed in as much seat time as possible this year, he plans to tone down the activity next season and drill down on the races that he says really count.
“We definitely won’t be doing some of the smaller Irish road races, as it’s just too high risk for what you get out of them. You might get a free entry and some start money but you are only really there to make up the numbers. We will just go to what’s worth going to.”
Although he understands the consequences of both circuits and roads, having crashed this year in both disciplines, including one at Oulton Park that he fought his way out of hospital to overcome in order to start his first Gold Cup, the teenager insists he’s not in it for the ‘buzz’ of brushing death.
“If every road race was safe I’d go to every one of them because I love road racing.”
“A lot of people big themselves up and try to play Billy Big Bollocks by saying, ‘I love it because it’s so dangerous and I don’t care if I crash and go into a wall’. Of course you care if you crash and go into a wall you idiot.
“Safety is always the most important thing – I never ride uncomfortably on the road. If I scare myself with a moment I’ll sit up. As long as I’m safe and winning races then happy days, but I wouldn’t ride out of my skin to win races.
“Ian [Lougher, team boss] is probably one of the most sensible racers there is, and the only time he’s ever had crashes is when he’s trying to win from second where the risk is necessary. That’s where you take risks.
“But you see people crashing out of 25th and you just think, ‘bring it home mate, there’s no need – just have a go next year.’”
And in an ever-increasing paddock of 1000cc riders who think big bikes are the only option, Thompson exudes maturity beyond his years. Completely of his own insistence, the youngster says he will move up when he feels he’s ready, and not a moment before.
“Moving up to the big bike probably won’t happen for the next three years or so. Until I can be running at the front of the TT with a 600 I’m not going to bother because I definitely won’t be able to do it on a big bike.”
“Everyone rushes it, and in my eyes they kind of drop a bit because they have to concentrate on riding a twin, riding a 600, riding a stock bike and riding a superbike. I would rather put everything I have into the 600.
“We’re going to have the twin next year for some extra laps, but if I put everything into the 600 hopefully I will be able to win a 600 race at the TT or the North West, or even a main race at the Ulster.
“That is what we’re going to do and once I can do that then I’ll move up. I’m 19 years old, I’ve got years and years and years left before I have to worry about that.”
Thompson claims he may not be ready to win at the international road races for at least another five years or more, but he wants to be here for – as they say – both a ‘long time’ and a ‘good time’.
“It’s alright going road racing and taking your brain out, but you’ll only make a couple years. I would rather take it steady now, keep a calm head and win races in seven or eight years’ time.
“That’s the plan, anyway…”
*Main image: Gary Howlett
*Podium and Ulster image: David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
*Middle side image: Ian Boldy