A racing part exchange: Irish motor sport collection for John Campion

Bertrand Gachot in the Jordan 191 in Mexico

Bertrand Gachot in action in the Jordan 191 in Mexico. Remember when F1 cars looked this good?

From red, white and blue to emerald green: an avid motor sport collector has traded in his multi-million pound group of Martini Lancias in order to start a new collection of racing cars with ties to his Irish homeland.

John Campion, who is now based in the US, had painstakingly build up the collection of Lancias over years. But, as reported in Motor Sport’s July issue, he is now selling the lot. He intends to replace the cars with a new collection that celebrates the past and future of Irish motor sport. The change of heart comes after Campion, who made his fortune supplying portable generators to bands including the Rolling Stones and U2, received a diagnosis of leukaemia, from which he is now recovered.

“The idea was to change the focus of the collection” Campion says. “We wanted to tell the story of Irish motor sports physically, through the cars. So we started off with the March 811 [driven in period by Derek Daly and still resplendent in its original Guinness colours, right]. Next we bought the Billy Coleman MkII Ford Escort that won the West Cork Rally in 1980. Then we got the Ford Fiesta R5 that won the Irish Tarmac Championship last year.”

Buying historic Irish-connected racing cars has arguably peaked with Campion’s purchase of a Jordan 192 F1 car from 1992 and a 1991 Jordan 191, generally considered to be one of the prettiest F1 cars of all time. Other recent buys include a last- off-the-line Lola, made when the late Martin Birrane still owned the company, and one of the Team Ireland A1GP cars. Other cars are on his radar, but as Campion puts it: “I don’t want to say which ones, because once I am mentioned the price tends to go up.”

Guinness sponsored March 811

Guinness sponsored March 811

As ever with such collections, some of the best finds came by accident. “We found a 1974 Formula Ford racer built by Crosslé and originally owned by Eddie Jordan. James found that in a spare parts shop in Dublin…”

That James is James Roe Junior, born in Kildare and currently racing in Formula Regional Americas, backed by Campion’s CJJ Motorsports concern. Roe joins fellow racers Nicole Drought and Sean Doyle in the CJJ lineup. They are the true focus of Campion’s plans — not just to create a stable of classic Irish racing cars, but to use that to promote new Irish drivers and teams.