Through The Esses - Michael DeFontes Is A Big Jerry Thompson Fan
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Michael DeFontes
02/13/09 © Andrew S. Hartwell

Jerry Thompson enjoyed a lengthy career in sportscar racing and he is about to be recognized for his achievements with his impending induction into the Corvette Hall of Fame. There he joins a very short list of memorable names, all people for whom the Chevrolet Corvette was more than just a ride, it was a lifetime association.

The now senior Thompson raced in many series including Trans-Am, Firestone Firehawk, IMSA Camel GT and more. Along the way, Thompson and a fellow racer named Michael DeFontes became acquainted through Thompson's son, Chris. They would go on to be co-drivers in a number of races, and in short order DeFontes developed a real affection and respect for what Thompson could do and had done in a race car.

We talked with DeFontes about his own racing experience and about his relationship with Jerry Thompson. It was very obvious to us that DeFontes holds Thompson in reverence for not only what he has done in a race car, but for how he lives as a man and father.

DeFontes begins by telling us about his own background and then brings us to how he came to meet and admire Jerry Thompson.

I started racing in 1983. My first race was at the Pocono 500 in the IMSA Camel GT series. I went there to crew a car in that race. Bill Scott and George Hulse were supposed to drive the car but Scott was called away in an emergency to go to Saudi Arabia to teach anti-terrorist driving skills to some important people there. Now this was back in the days when they didn't have televisions and phones in the hotel rooms, so the manager of the hotel came to my room to tell me I had to call home right away as there was an emergency. I called and they said Bill Scott was called away and would I co-drive with Hulse in the race!

Up to this point I had only been through the Bertil Roos driving school one time and I had never driven in a race before! Mark Raffauf (the current Managing Director of Competition for Grand-Am) was the man who got me my racing license for that race. I told Mark that again when I saw him recently, pulling out my original card and showing him that is was from 24 years ago! I said you are the first guy that ever gave me a racing license'. I told him that he must have lost his mind!

Several other racing personalities were convinced DeFontes had lost his mind to think he could run his first race with so little prior track time.
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