A Concise History Of A Racing Legend. An Innovator.
Mickey Thompson is a giant amongst racetrack heroes. He holds more auto speed records than anyone on earth. Winning races in record times was the driving force behind Mickey Thompson’s innovations in tyre design. If tyres held Mickey back, he adjusted them so they would get him first over the line in the fastest time.
FASTEST MAN ON EARTH
When Mickey was 9 years old, his father took him to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to watch Englishman John Cobb’s set a new land speed record – 394.2 miles per hour. As Mickey stood there on the salt flats, he vowed that one day he would beat that record.
Wanting to build the first 500 mph tyre, Mickey Thompson and Gene McMannis, engineer, started designing their own tyres. In 1960, these tyres helped him become the fastest man on earth by travelling at 406.6 mph (650.56 kph).
THE ORIGINAL FAST AND FURIOUS
Mickey scraped his first car together from junk yard bits using his high school workshop to mill heads and grind parts by hand. Racing was on the streets. No rules. No restrictions If it wasn’t dangerous you weren’t really racing. According to the local police department, Mickey Thompson was the “best in the street.”
SHAKING UP INDY
No sports spectacular anywhere rivals the INDY 500; in 1962 Mickey decided to enter with rear engine vehicles rather than the front engine roadsters. The technical committee challenged nearly every feature of Mickey’s cars but when they finally passed, Mickey failed the medical, leaving his mechanic to drive. You can’t win your first INDY, there’s just too much to learn.
Mickey’s motto: if the tyres are holding you back, make new tyres. So Mickey returned with lighter vehicles and lower profile tyres. These tyres were designed by Mickey, and he was the only one that had them. They used a softer compound rather than the usual narrow tyres with a harder compound. Mickey’s lower profile tyres and lighter vehicles caused complaints amongst many drivers, leading to changes in the rules for future races but paving the way for low profile tyres, which are standard in today’s passenger tyres and the tyres you see in Indy and Formula One racing today.
THE SWITCH TO OFF-ROAD
Mickey was the first to bring the thrill of off road racing to the stadium before 40,000 cheering competitors. He set up SCORE International, and convinced celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger to compete in order to raise the sports’ profile.
At 53, Mickey won the race he always wanted to win, the most gruelling off-road race of them all, the Baja 1000 and set a new time for the event: 19 hours, 40 minutes and 23 seconds.
MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAME
During his life, Mickey raced in over 10,000 events, over one million race miles. He won championships in diverse categories of auto racing such as midgets, sprint cars, off-road vehicles, stock cars, drag racing and sports cars.
Mickey’s contribution to motorsports earned him an induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.
THE LEGEND LIVES ON
Like his father before him, Danny Thompson risked everything to go faster than 400 mph. Yet Danny had more at stake than breaking the land speed record. He was at Bonneville to finish the race for his father. While Mickey had become the first American to top 400 mph, his record had remained unofficial. On Mickey’s return run, his car had broken down. His second attempt had been stopped by rain and before his third attempt, Mickey was stopped forever by the bullet from a hit man’s gun. Danny spent seven years re-building his father’s Challenger 2 from the chassis up. Pouring his tenacity, innovation and heart into the restoration, Danny introduced Mickey’s Challenger 2 to the Salt Flats a whopping forty-nine years later. When Danny crossed the finish line of his return run, he had set a new record and honoured his father’s legacy. The legacy of record breaking innovation without compromise lives on in every Mickey Thompson tyre.
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