Eric Thompson has died at the age of 95. Born in Surrey in 1919, Thompson started late in the sport because war broke out when he was 19 and for six years, during which he was in the British Army, there was no motor racing in the UK. He was finally demobilised in 1946 and went to work as a marine insurance broker at Lloyds of London. He began to take part in rallies and trials, using a pre-war MG and a Ford V8 and it was not until the autumn of 1948 that he was invited by Robin Richards to share an Ecurie Lapin Blanc HRG, as part of a team representing the BRDC against France’s Association Générale Automobile des Coureurs Indépendants (AGACI) in the Paris 12 Hours at Montlhéry. The British won with Thompson finishing fourth in class and he was invited to join the BRDC. Encouraged by this, he bought an HRG chassis from the company’s concessionaire Charles Follett Ltd and had the machine prepared for him by Monaco Motors. He raced this at Le Mans the following year Jack Fairman as his co-driver and the pair won their class and finished eighth overall. A month later he scored two wins at Goodwood in the car and added a class victory at Silverstone. Because he was not a professional racing drivers, his time was very limited and he preferred to race sports cars because it gave him more time in the cars. He raced only in the United Kingdom, except for his annual pilgrimage to Le Mans. In 1950 he did only six races, beginning with a class win with his HRG at Blandford Camp.
The impressive early performances attracted the attention of Aston Martin racing manager John Wyer and Thompson was invited to join the factory sports car team for Le Mans, sharing a DB2 with John Gordon, alongside the George Abecassis/Lance Macklin and Reg Parnell/Charles Brackenbury entries. The car suffered engine failure after eight hours. That year he was one of the founders of the Lloyds Motor Club.
In 1951 he was able to race on eight occasions and finished Le Mans third overall, paired with Macklin. In 1952 he did slightly more racing, competing at Le Mans with Aston Martin once again, but being driving Rob Walker’s ERA-Delage and a Connaught in Formula Libre races. This led to him to receive a call from Rodney Clarke at Connaught, asking if he might be available for the British GP that year. Thompson had to miss the first day of practice because of a meeting with a ship owner, but he then qualified ninth and in the early part of the race, ran in the top six, ahead of stars such as Prince Bira, Roy Salvador and Peter Collins, before his rev-counter failed. He then shadowed Dennis Poore’s sister car for some laps to memorise where to change gear and ended the race battling (and beating Giuseppe Farina) to fifth place.
This remarkable debut went almost unnoticed, while he had a close shave later that summer when Reg Parnell pulled him from an Aston Martin sports car shortly before it burst into flames after a refuelling spillage at Goodwood. In 1953 he and Parnell went back to Goodwood and shared victory for Aston Martin in the nine hour race and a visit to Dundrod resulted in second place in the Tourist Trophy. Pressure of work meant that Thompson hardly raced at all in 1954, with his only appearances being at Goodwood and Le Mans, after which he parted company with Aston Martin. He reappeared briefly in a Connaught sports car the following year before ending his career with a 500cc race early in 1956.
He would later be a timekeeper with Aston Martin and when he retired from the insurance work in the 1980s he became a dealer in rare automotive books.