Long-time race car driver Parker Thompson spends the majority of his time behind the wheel, but when he is not in the car he announces for other races, while also making time to talk to students about the importance of watching the road.
Red Deer, Alta. native, Thompson’s love for motorsports started at a very young age. His father, Doug Thompson, bought him his first dirt bike when he was only five years old, but his mother sold it within a year.
“She thought two wheels was too dangerous and that’s what brought me to four wheels.”
He started racing at the Calgary Kart Racing Club where he quickly rose through the ranks to compete at the international level. By the time he was 13, he was third in the world karting championships.
His high placement attracted the attention of Energy Corse Racing and they recruited him to live in Italy and race in the World Series of Karting. The story goes the owner met his parents and shortly after the race in Portugal he had a contract to sign and move to Italy for 12 months.
“So, it happened very quick,” said Thompson.
For the next year Doug was only able to see his son through FaceTime.
“That’s what made it, I guess you would say bearable. Yeah. Bearable,” said Doug.
That time in Italy fueled Thompson’s career, and he has raced all over the world, from karts to open wheel cars and everything in between. Thompson now races his favourite, the sports car for JDX Racing in the No. 9 Team Canada Porsche.
“I have never had a car that is more difficult to get the maximum amount of, and it’s this level of discipline and level of patience with the weight, but also a level of pushing.”
Sports car racing, however, is not the only thing Thompson finds himself doing during his 250 days away from home each year. Last year, Thompson became a race commentator for the IndyLights series and The Road to Indy.
“It was not something I was interested in from the start. It was more of a necessity to keep my name in the series as I was no longer driving in it.”
He has been announcing with Rob Howden who has been commentating on races for many years, including some of Thompson’s earliest races. Howden saw Thompson had worked on his marketing and speaking skills, which contributed to his success.
“These talents made him a candidate for the position, and he was very successful in the host position in 2021,” said Howden.
On top of providing commentary when not driving every race car in reach, Thompson also leads a driving safety campaign for students. He founded ‘Drive to Stay Alive’ after seeing a classmate involved in a texting and driving incident.
“We looked into trying to bring something for texting and driving. You know, there was Mothers Against Drinking and Driving. There was a lot of drinking presentations and driving, but there was no specific texting and driving.”
His presentation to the two main high schools in Red Deer went so well that he captured the attention of Wayne Drysdale, the transportation cabinet minister for Alberta at the time. The Alberta government then asked Thompson to speak to schools across Alberta and then Canada on the importance of not texting and driving.
“I was never going to make this out of a career of being a professional speaker. It kind of just fell on my lap.”
Thompson’s presentations now follow his racing schedule with him stopping at high schools as often as his schedule allows. He can use his unique insight as a race car driver to further his message.
“I always felt safer behind the wheel of a race car than I ever did on the streets driving in Alberta. I knew who I was racing against, and I knew they were busy trying to beat me and not trying to be distracted. So, you kind of couple those factors together and it gave a pretty unique presentation.”