GARY THOMPSON: MAN IN CHARGE
While the latest guest on The TT Podcast is not a racer, he’s without doubt the most influential person when there is racing on the Mountain Course. Clerk of the Course, Gary Thompson MBE BEM, spoke to Chris Pritchard and Steve Plater and explains how he came to be the man in charge at the Isle of Man TT Races, from military beginnings and a – very brief – stint on a bike!
After spending 25 years in the armed forces, few people then decide to take on the world of motorsports but Gary tells Chris and Steve why he chose a job at the Auto-Cycle Union over the chance to progress further within the Army. He talks about his childhood idols of Mick Grant and Barry Sheene, and how his love of the sport came from never missing a meeting at the Boston Speedway as a child.
First taking on his position for the 2012 Isle of Ma TT Races, Gary admits that he didn’t realise he had become the first man to ever cancel a Senior TT until it was in the headlines the day after. He provides the podcast with an insight into how that decision was made and why, after seeing the state of the course that day with Conor Cummins and John McGuinness, it was actually rather easy! Additionally, he talks about the importance of talking to the riders before making those big decisions and how he manages the expectations of marshals, competitors, teams, fans and residents.
Alongside the lows of dealing with the difficulties that the Mountain Course can throw at you, Gary also gets to talk about one of his crowning achievements during the 2019 event – fitting five races, and a practice lap, into a single day.
From first joining as a 16-year-old in 1979, Gary talks about his time in the Army and discusses some of the impressive experiences he gained. He discusses his time dealing with prime ministers and the Royal Family, working as part of the organisation team for the largest land operation since WWII, and serving in the Falklands, Bosnia and Sierra Leone.
The MBE and BEM holder also explains how he got those titles and why the regimented environment of the army, and a touch of obsessive organisation, was an ideal precursor to managing the complex schedules of the Isle of Man TT.
Pressed by Chris over why he never decided to get on a bike, Gary confesses to a brief stint as a sidecar passenger which ended with a trip to the hospital before Jim Parker, his then boss, declared – ‘I think your racing days have come to an end!’
You can either watch the full Podcast by subscribing for free to TT+ or listen to The TT Podcast through your favourite podcast provider.
Listen now to Part One: Man In Charge
Listen now to Part Two: Why I Cancelled The Senior