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Investment gamble pays off as Matt Campbell lands Porsche Le Mans deal

10 February 2018 3:33 AM
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Australia's Matt Campbell is set to follow in Mark Webber's footsteps, taking on the World Endurance Championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche.

The newly minted Porsche junior started life as a factory-backed racing driver by outgunning highly-fancied racers in identical 911 GT3 R machinery in qualifying for the Bathurst 12 Hour last week where Campbell's four-driver crew went on to finish second in class and fourth overall .

With Porsche's prototype campaign coming to a close at the end of 2017, the 22-year-old will drive a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the GTE-Am category for mixed professional and amateur driving crews, racing against world-class machines from the likes of Ferrari and Aston Martin.

Porsche also plans to give Campbell a chance in the gruelling Nurburgring 24 Hour in May.

Motorsport is expensive. Unlike many young racers with the backing of extraordinarily wealthy family members, friends and sponsors, Campbell's comparatively humble stock forced a novel approach to funding his career.

The young driver became a self-managed business, selling shares in his future to 16 supporters, with a return on their investment paid as a fraction of Campbell's salary.

Investors effectively paid for two seasons of Carrera Cup racing in Australia and a tilt at the European Supercup one-make series for Porsches, which was enough for Campbell to win the sports car brand's attention and put him on a similar career path to Kiwi two-time Le Mans winner Earl Bamber.

Their investment looks to have paid off, with news emerging from Europe on Friday that Campbell is an important part of Porsche's plans.

"We needed to try something different to be able to make it. We didn't have the budget or the money to do it any other way.

"If I was to ever start making money through motorsport professionally, they would obviously get a return back on their money."

Campbell promises a 2.5 per cent annual return on future earnings over a 10-year period to 2025, retaining 55 per cent of his annual pay packet as a salary. He declined to say who the investors were or how much they paid, but 16 Lego bricks with names painted on the back of this helmet suggest family members played a significant role getting him to the grid.

If we were to take a wild guess at how the numbers might stack up (and it truly is a stab in the dark), 16 investors pledging a neat $50,000 each would give Campbell a $800,000 war chest to fund a couple of seasons in Australia's Carrera Cup along with spare cash to tip into an overseas Supercup campaign.

If we hypothesise that the young racer spends five years earning an average of $100,000 per season before hitting the big bucks in the second half of his investment scheme, perhaps averaging an even $500,000 per season over five years, each investor would see $75,000 returned in the final five years of the agreement.

This isn't a get-rich-quick scheme, but it is a clever way to give talented athletes a much-needed boost early in their career. From a distance, it seems Campbell is fortunate not to be locked into loans – many would-be F1 drivers spend decades paying back borrowed cash burnt in pursuit of a career in the top flight of motor sport.

After all, the best way to make a small fortune in racing is to start with a large one.

For its part, Porsche has paired with Michelin to create the Porsche Michelin Junior Programme Australia, a development program pledging up to $300,000 in benefits to help young racers gain a foothold in motorsport.

Drivers eligible for the scheme must be Australian residents aged under 23, with a proven ability in junior categories and a budget to compete in Porsche's second-tier GT3 Cup Challenge for superseded race cars.

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