By ADAM HICKS
IT'S a long drive from the Lismore karting track to Mt Panorama at Bathurst.
Former Byron Bay driver Andrew Thompson is in negotiations with several V8 Supercar race teams who want him to drive in the top-level competition next season.
After cutting his teeth as a kid in local karting circles, the 19-year-old went on to achieve a top-10 finish at Bathurst this year and is now on the verge of securing a permanent drive in the main game.
Speaking from his home on the Gold Coast, Thompson said he had been negotiating with four teams who had approached him after he recorded impressive results in the Fujitsu Development Series.
"We have been approached by a couple of teams about having a seat available next year," he said.
"Four teams have called and expressed interest. They're all quite respectable teams.
"We're just trying to go through and narrow it all down and pick the one that we think is right.
"It hasn't happened yet but we're pretty confident we'll be able to get something sorted out and you'll see me in the main game next year."
Thompson said the offers started coming in after he clocked similar times in his development car to those racing in the Supercar series.
"We've had an up and down year in the Fujitsu series ... quite a few mechanical problems and I've made a couple of mistakes but I've showed good speed ... matching some of those in the main game," he said.
Thompson raced in five rounds of the current Development series, securing pole position in three races and going on to win the round at Winton.
He was also given a co-driving seat with Dick Johnson Racing team at Bathurst and Sandown.
"Sandown was a little disappointing," he said.
"The diff (sic) let go ... the car seized up and we had to pull out with 25 laps to go.
"I'm really happy with Bathurst."
Co-driving with Alex Davison, Thompson helped steer the car to eighth position in the 161-lap race.
"I really just tried to keep the motor clean and the car in one piece and get through to the last 30 laps and hand it over to Alex," he said.
It was the best finish for a rookie in the 2007 race.
"We had a lot of interest before Bathurst, obviously the speed in V8 development series was one of the big parts that they've seen," he said.
"I showed I can be fast in these cars. Obviously getting to Bathurst with a good, solid result in the main game and keeping my nose clean cemented it a bit.
"I definitely showed there is potential there and that I use my head when I drive."
Thompson said he could not reveal details about the negotiations but expected an announcement on his future team to be made in the next few weeks.
Born on the Gold Coast, Thompson lived at Byron Bay with his family for 12 years and was a student at Xavier College in Lennox Head when quit school as a 17-year-old to chasing his petrol-fueled dreams.
Success didn't come instantly and Thompson studied Real Estate Management and Project Management as a fall-back career.
But he turned it around by securing a drive with the Latitude Developments team in the current Fujitsu Development Series.