Top touring car driver and winner of the British Touring Car Championship in 2002 and 2004.
His father was David "Piggy" Thompson, one of the UK's top club rally drivers in the 70s and 80s, but rather than rallying James went straight into motor racing. When he was 17 he went to the Jim Russell Racing Drivers' school.
Having grown up around rally cars, going to a circuit for the first time was quite a culture shock, but it worked out quite well, he got pole position and won his first race.
Racing in Formula Vauxhall Junior Championship in 1991 and 1992, he moved to saloon cars in 1993 winning the National Saloon Car Cup.
He moved up to the British Touring Car Championship the following year driving a Peugeot in the Independents' Cup. He joined Vauxhall in 1995 and became the BTCC's youngest race winner. He moved to Honda in 1997 and finished 3rd in the Championship in 1998. As well as driving for Honda he also contested seven rounds of the DTM series in 2000 with Audi.
He returned to Vauxhall in 2001 finishing 3rd in the British Championship and in the European Touring Car Championship, he drove two races for Honda, finishing 2nd in both.
In 2002 he drove the dominant Vauxhall Astra Coupe. He had to cope with sustained pressure from his team mate, Yvan Muller all season, but secured the championship at the last round.
Sticking with Vauxhall and the BTCC he started 2003 with 2 wins at Mondello. Always quick in qualifying, in races Yvan Muller had the edge. It still came down to the last round however this time Muller emerged the Champion.
In 2003 he also tackled the British Rally Championship and took a win in a guest drive in the ETCC for Alfa Romeo.
Another year with Vauhall's VX Racing Team, he started the year with pole position and a win at Thruxton and followed that up with third at Brands and second at Silverstone. A mid season dip in form saw Muller take the lead in the series but after taking pole, the lap record and the win at Snetterton he went to Donnington with a slight edge. In the last race Muller took the win, but James' third place was enough to secure his second title by one point. He also had another guest drive for Alfa Romeo in the ETCC, taking pole position and the win.
He then joined Alfa Romeo in 2005 for an assault on the World Touring Car Championship which replaced the ETCC. Thompson took a win in the opening round at Monza and a second at Silverstone.
In 2006 he contested the WTCC with SEAT Sport, as well as taking in six non-clashing BTCC rounds also with the works Seat team.