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More than three decades after making his UK debut at Santa Pod Raceway, New Jersey based fuel coupe racer Harlan Thompson was amongst the 2011 inductees into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame last month. This is his story…
Mike Collins became good friends with Harlan during his years in the UK and hopes to provide DRO readers with an entertaining insight into how a quiet spoken American made the transition from a rookie fuel coupe driver in Seattle, Washington to a hired gun on the east coast match race circuit before moving on to conquer the UK, racing and winning on all the major Euro/Scandinavian tracks to become their own Budweiser King…
"On the highways," Harlan answered with a chuckle when I asked where he started racing. Like many American youngsters he grew up with horsepower, progressing rapidly from street driven muscle cars to a B gas Corvette complete with a setback fuel injected engine and "all the trick sh*t."
You just know that young Harlan didn’t push the ‘vette onto this quiet country road outside Seattle just for a photo! Building the car from scratch from just a frame and body shell, Harlan had every reason to be proud of his ten second machine. And yes, he actually did test the ‘vette out quite often on this very stretch of road before taking it to the track! Hey, c’m’on, things were different in those days…
Harlan rarely talked racing when away from the track and, although
we became close friends during his early years at Santa Pod, I
never learned much of the history behind him until 1988 after
returning from what was meant to be a brief six week drive
around the bottom half of the United States. Instead it’d
grew into a lengthy southern sojourn when I got stuck
down in Florida’s Manatee County for the better part of
a year, just ten minutes away from the soft white Gulf
Beaches and not much further from Art Malone’s DeSoto
drag strip, but that’s an whole ‘nother story!