Former volleyball star turns to racing with kart, auto racing success

MASON, Ohio – Racer Tom O’Gorman has been working hard for a chance to compete professionally in road racing. In 2016, he finally made it as the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B division champion.

The 25-year-old driver from Mason, Ohio, beat the bushes, making phone calls, writing sponsor proposals and meeting as many people as possible at the races. He knew what he needed to do to be successful in a sport which can leave some of the most talented on the sidelines.

2016-10-26-ogorman-2“I had heard all of the stories of the talented, young drivers having to sit and watch because the funding wasn’t there or the timing just missed,” said O’Gorman, the former indoor karting champion. “I knew I couldn’t let the opportunities slip by if I was going to make it in racing.”

O’Gorman was a Junior Olympic volleyball player as a teenager but had to make the decision to go from the international and high school teams spending hours in the gym to the race track spending hours behind the wheel. Tom actually began competing in autocross events while still playing volleyball.

“I really enjoyed playing volleyball but I was into racing more and I needed to make the decision,” O’Gorman admitted. “Luckily we also had an indoor karting center which my dad (Joe) ran. I could work on the karts and then drive them later. I just wanted track time.”

That track time worked out well for O’Gorman who won a North American karting qualifier and he competed in the Indoor Karting World Championships in Essen, Germany. He earned several top-three and top-five finishes in the seven-day competition.

“It was a great experience in Germany and it secured my decision to stay in racing and pursue a pro career if possible,” Tom said. “The competition in Germany was incredible and some of the talent in the races went on to solid racing careers. I thought, ‘Maybe I can do it too.’”

O’Gorman set his sights on driving anything and everything he could get his hands on as well as shaking as many hands at the events too for possible financial backing.

He recorded tens of victories in autocross including the coveted SCCA Solo Nationals title in 2012 and 2013 before being named Ohio Valley SCCA region rookie of the year. In 2014, he won the SCCA American Road Race of Champions at Road Atlanta and set a track record.

“After the Road Atlanta weekend, I set out to get a pro ride,” Tom said. “I was a driving instructor and worked on the SCCA Track Night in America program. But I wanted that seat in a pro race.”

Tom made his PWC debut at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2015 and recorded top-three placings in all three races including winning the VP Fuels Hard Charger Award. His second pro weekend was at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the OPTIMA Batteries Best Standing Start and finished third, fifth and second in three features.

“I have always been rather shy and I needed to be outgoing if I was going to raise my game in the pro divisions,” said O’Gorman. “I needed to talk to people and let them know of my dreams to race as a pro. I had watched how motorsports worked and I was talking to everyone. I even raised $8,000 from a Crowd Fund program and the autocross community and friends really helped out.”

In 2016, O’Gorman teamed up with TCB team owner and driver James Wilson from Texas as well as fellow racer David Daugherty and team manger Renee Hines to formed a TCB title-contending operation.

“We had a 2010 Honda Fit to start the year but we were anxious for the 2015 Honda Fit at mid-season,” said Tom. “After obtaining the 2015 Fit, things came together with my PWC effort and David driving in the SCCA ranks. We both thought we would have runs for championships.”

Jun 24 The Pirelli World Challenge Road America Grand Prix Presented by CadillacImmediately, O’Gorman was a threat in the 2015 Honda Fit and scored double Touring Car victories at Road America and Utah Motorsports Campus. He then scored two seconds at MRLS earlier this month to secure his first Pirelli World Challenge crown in the No. 94 Black Armor Helmets machine.

In addition, Daugherty, of Fortville, Ind., drove the same No. 94 Honda Fit to the SCCA B-Spec national championship in September at Mid-Ohio with Carbotech backing in the SCCA Runoffs.

“It was a great way to end the 2016 season with championships in the Pirelli World Challenge and the SCCA Runoffs,” said O’Gorman. “Renee basically gave all of her vacation time to help us run for the championships this year. She kept track of everything we needed and how the points fell in the finale at Laguna Seca. I want to thank her for her assistance and direction.”

Now, O’Gorman is back in Ohio, doing his off-season racing program which includes making phone calls, meeting with possible sponsors, and shaking hands to set up his 2017 Pirelli World Challenge program.

“It’s something you have to do to go professional racing,” he said. “And I love it.”