Matt Campbell says that his debut in next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will present a “fantastic opportunity” for his growing career.
The Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup race winner and Porsche Young Professional will make his first appearance at the French endurance classic, driving a Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR with Julien Andlauer and Christian Ried.
Campbell graduated to the upper tier of Porsche’s academy program for this year after bursting onto the international sports car racing scene in 2017 with GT3 Pro-Am class victory in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
Dennis Olsen, Mathieu Jaminet and Matteo Cairoli are the other members of the Young Professional scheme, while Campbell’s teammate Andlauer is a Porsche Junior.
“It’s a massive step up from Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup last year,” Campbell told Sportscar365.
“It’s my second year racing in Europe so I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m very excited to be joining the WEC and also Le Mans.
“When I started working up the Porsche ladder, Le Mans had always been at the back of my mind and something that I’ve always wanted to be a part of.
“I was lucky enough to go last year and just watch the event. To be there, even if I wasn’t part of the racing, was a fantastic experience and one of my favorite times at a race track not driving, so to think that I’m going back and driving is pretty special.”
Campbell made his 24-hour race debut at Dubai in January, before taking part in this month’s Nürburgring 24, where he finished 11th overall in a Frikadelli Racing Team-entered Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The 23-year-old Australian said that having had tastes of round-the-clock racing will help him to manage the physical and mental demands of Le Mans.
“Dubai was really good for us and good to get a taste of the format,” said Campbell.
“I wasn’t too sure how sleeping would go. I didn’t really sleep the whole race but that was fine for me. I think it will be more or less the same at Le Mans because we’ll only have three drivers while at Dubai we had four.
“It’s still quite difficult to get enough at times with all the noise. But it was good for a first taste, and now I know a little bit more of what to expect for the big Le Mans weekend.”
Campbell’s Unusual Career Path Fueling Factory Ambitions
Unlike most up-and-coming racers today, Campbell didn’t acquire his racing instinct through karting.
Instead, as a 14-year-old, he started out plying his trade in vintage events behind the wheel of a family-run Datsun 1200 Coupe.
Around the same time, he transitioned to national Formula Ford before sealing his first Porsche drive in the 2014 Australian GT Championship.
Campbell believes that forgoing the karting route pursued by his fellow Young Professionals has not been detrimental to his career prospects.
“I still love my historic racing and historic racing cars,” he said. “I just love that type of period and in grassroots, there’s such a wide diversity of cars. I think that has boded very well for my career thus far.
“If I can when I get back home, I try to do races like this because it’s so important to always get miles in different cars because you learn to adapt better.”
Campbell added that his long-term goal is to represent Porsche as a factory driver, but his current focus is on turning heads during his first WEC campaign.
“I think [a factory drive] is the same target for all of us Young Professionals,” he said. “At the moment, racing in WEC for my first season, it’s good to get a taste for it and a feel. It’s the same circuits and the same cars, so I get the experience.
“About possibly stepping up in the future years – I’m not too sure. I’m just going to continue doing my thing. I certainly don’t look ahead too much. I just focus on the current and do the best I can.”