A life less ordinary
With a successful career as both a racer and a racing driving instructor, one might easily think that Christopher Campbell has had everything all planned out from the very beginning. On the contrary, his entrance into the racing world came about by chance.
After a period of study in the United States, where he honed his competitive instincts by excelling at a range of sports, Christopher returned to his native France to do his national service. There, he was sent to the French Navy, becoming a scuba diver.
The experience landed him a job of the more exotic variety. “After leaving the navy, I worked for four years as a professional diver for a treasure hunting company,” he says. During this period, he was sent on many exciting quests, the highlight being two wreckages off the coast of Mauritius. “The first wreckage was the most interesting. It sank in 1615 and contained 90,000 Ming porcelain plates. For a 20-year-old, this to be sure was a very exciting adventure,” he exclaims.
On the racetrack
Awash with more cash than he ever expected to have at such an early age, Christopher decided to satisfy his competitive urges by buying a race car; thus, beginning the long road of his relationship with racing.
After two years of racing, Christopher graduated to the French Porsche Cup, which is where his professional career truly began. Since then, he’s enjoyed his fair share of highlights behind the steering wheel, chasing victories like he did lost treasure. “My most memorable moment was my first win in the Porsche Cup in 1997, in front of some very famous Formula 1 and Formula 3000 drivers,” he proudly tells.
Other achievements that stick out include competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2005 in a ‘very good’ team featuring a former World Skiing Champion turned racing driver Luc Alphand, as well as winning the 2007 French GT Championship - GT3 in a Ferrari F430 for the team AS Events.
A natural born competitor
For Christopher, the ‘competition’ and the ‘pressure that builds up during a race meeting’ are the most satisfying aspects of racing. This, he feels, is summed up during qualifying. “Qualifying is a big moment because you really have to focus and concentrate. You are alone with yourself and you have to do the best you can in two or three laps. It is a very short moment where you have to put everything together,” he says.
Although he’s had many positive experiences during his racing career, he’s had some disappointing ones, too. Chief of these came in 2010 when, whilst working as a team manager of a racing team, the team’s owners ‘disappeared’, leaving the rest of the team in a financial dilemma. The stressful experience left Christopher disillusioned with the sport, resulting in him stepping back to focus on other interests.
This period out of racing, however, didn’t blunt any of his competitive instincts. Instead of relaxing, he used the time to push his body to the limit in a series of swimming, surfing and mountain running competitions. “Participating in these events certainly helped me to remain fit and stay competitive in my head during my 10 years away from racing,” he confirms. “Exercising has also come in handy during the Covid-19 lockdown in France,” he adds.
During his time away from competitive racing, he also focussed his energies on building his profile as a racing driving instructor, which today is his chief occupation, and a very fulfilling one at that. “I was one of the very first people in France to do a diploma in this area back in 2005. Coaching on the racetracks is the heart of my job. It is indeed very rewarding when drivers that I coached make podium finishes,” he says.
Back on track
After a decade away from motor racing, Christopher made an unlikely return to the track. The rules of the GT4 French Championship allow a team to field an amateur and a professional driver, and since turning 50 years old, Christopher has been designated an amateur, albeit one “with a lot of experience”. Encouraged by “friends, partners and the French racing world in general”, he started considering a return and once some suitable sponsors were found, it became an easy decision.
With an exciting partnership with NGK SPARK PLUG, a company which he feels matches his “passion for cars, competition and racing”, Christopher is looking forward to the GT4 French Championship that will start on August 24. After a difficult season last year, which saw him secure one pole position and one win, he has changed teams as well as cars, competing this season for renowned French outfit, CMR. The team will race two Toyotas and two Alpines, with Christopher steering one of the Alpines. “We have big expectations this season, the target is to win races and aim for the championship,” he proclaims.
He is also excited by his new teammate who will be none other than Nicolas Prost, son of the famous French F1 driver Alain. “Nicolas raced Le Mans maybe 12 times with Rebellion Racing, which is a very big team. He’s also won races in Formula E, so he’s a very accomplished and competitive driver,” he enthuses.
With his racing career back on track, the future is looking positive for Christopher. His immediate plans include: “Winning a race at the first weekend of the coming GT4 season because it would put us in the right direction for the championship. Otherwise, I wish to keep building the profile of my job as a racing driving instructor.”
“At NGK SPARK PLUG, we are delighted to be collaborating with a racer like Christopher Campbell,” says Nicole Rößler, Head of Regional Communications & Aftermarket MarCom EMEA at NGK SPARK PLUG EUROPE GmbH. We are passionate about developing the optimum ignition technology to fit the needs of every fuel powered engine, which is why motor racing, with its extreme conditions, plays such a vital role for us. With his enduring passion for racing and competition, it’s quite apparent that the interests of our company and Christopher directly intersect each other.”
NGK SPARK PLUG wishes Christopher Campbell the very best in the upcoming GT4 French Championship season.