Mickey Thompson is a giant amongst racetrack heroes. He is the driver who holds more auto speed records than anyone on earth. He is the maverick car builder whose designs revolutionised racing. He is the tyre innovator whose tyres were used on fast attack vehicles in the Gulf War. He is the man who never gave up.
How did Mickey remain so determined to succeed against the odds? An IQ test revealed Mickey was near genius. His brilliant mind, steely determination and love of auto racing meant Mickey didn't stop until he saw his revolutionary ideas come to fruition.
After Mickey had broken hundreds of auto speed records, he went on to help elevate off-road racing to its present status through sponsorship, celebrity involvement and stadium events. Mickey inspired the racing world and his contribution is still felt today.
When Mickey was discussing the publishing of his life story with his friend Tom Madigan, he told Tom, "If just one kid reads my story and realises that he can better himself by just determination and guts, then I'll be happy."
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Mickey Thompson’s Tyre Innovations
Winning races in record times was the driving force behind Mickey Thompson’s innovations in tyre design. If tyres held Mickey back he made the tyres that got him first over the line in the fastest time. His tyres helped him become the fastest man on earth by travelling at 406.6 mph (650.56 kph) and go on to set 485 speed and endurance records in many forms of motorsport, more than any man on earth.
In 1963, Mickey started his own tyre company with Gene McMannis, a chief designer from Goodyear, and designed revolutionary tyres for Mickey’s cars in the Indy 500. Most tyres running then used a narrow tread with a hard rubber compound. Mickey’s tyres were made from a soft compound three times the width with a lower profile giving more stability and a lower centre of gravity. This innovation made Mickey’s new cars so fast they were almost banned but paved the way for the tyres you see in Indy car and Formula One racing today.
The switch to offroad
Then, in 1969, Mickey made the switch to off-road racing. Together, Mickey and Gene built leading technology bias-belted off-road racing tyres that, in 1982 at the age of 53, helped Mickey set a new record time to win the one big race that had always eluded him, the most gruelling off-road race of them all, the Baja 1000.
Hall of Fame
In 1990, Mickey was inducted in to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame for his contribution to motorsport as a racer and innovator.
Today’s 4WD tyres
Mickey’s contribution as an innovator of revolutionary tyres went beyond motorsport. The 4WD tyres available today feature many of the innovations that Mickey and Gene McMannis designed in their racing tyres. Tyres with tread running down the sidewall known as sidebiters for climbing out of ruts and to reduce off-road damage; a directional tread pattern at 23 degrees (the ultimate angle for cutting and self-cleaning as used on plough blades and tractor tyres); and specialty light truck radial tyre sizing up to 40 inches are all Mickey Thompson innovations.