Home Featured The Campos F3 duo helping continue their team founder’s legacy

The Campos F3 duo helping continue their team founder’s legacy

by Alejandro Alonso Lopez

Photos: Campos Racing

Campos Racing started its motorsport journey in 1998 with two Spanish drivers in its seats. Now, 24 years later, it continues its founder’s legacy of supporting Spanish talent

After retiring from racing himself at the end of 1997, Adrian Campos was determined to help young Spanish drivers who pursued a career in motorsport. With that in mind, he founded Campos Motorsport, a team that would compete for the first time in the 1998 Euro Open by Nissan fielding Marc Gene and Antonio Garcia. Their maiden season was a success, and although it was Garcia who broke records by claiming victory in the first two races, it was Gene who became champion with a 52-point gap over his nearest rival.

Since then the team has given opportunities to many young drivers, both Spanish and non-Spanish, with eight of those reaching Formula 1. Among them is Spain’s most successful racing driver Fernando Alonso, who drove for the team in 1999 when he won the Euro Open by Nissan. The last one to do so was Jack Aitken, who departed Campos Racing on the eve of the 2020 Formula 2 finale to take part in the Sakhir Grand Prix with Williams.

Adrian Campos Jr has been in charge of the team since his father suddenly passed away at the end of January 2021. He sat with Formula Scout in the F2 paddock at Imola last month to discuss his father’s legacy and the team’s future plans, together with two of his current Formula 3 drivers who highlight how the team remains crucial for Spanish motorsport in particular.

“When you look back and you see all the drivers that are there, for sure the best Spanish drivers in the motorsport world, he was very important for all of them,” Campos Jr says of his father.

“We can see Alex Palou winning in IndyCar, Fernando [Alonso], Gene, Garcia… most of them went through the team and my father was key in their careers.

“I think he always loved racing. He knew from himself and from his career how difficult this world is and how difficult to achieve your goals is. So, he understood that he had the chance to help other drivers that deserve these chances and don’t have the opportunities. He was willing to do so [provide those opportunities] and even more for Spanish drivers.”

David Vidales for example is in his first season actually racing for Campos, but has a longer relationship with the team dating back to his karting career.

“I think that the best thing about Adrian was that he was a fantastic person with a big heart,” Vidales says. “If he wanted to help you, he would just help you without expecting something in return. That’s something that, especially in this sport, very few people are willing to do. That’s for me his most powerful characteristic.”

Vidales shone in karting where he was runner-up in the world championships for OK Junior, OK senior and KZ2 gearbox karts and finally got his first serious single-seater experience thanks to Campos Sr and his team in late 2019.

“One of my first tests with a formula car was thanks to Campos Racing, and especially to Adrian Campos Sr and my manager Salvatore Gandolfo. Both gave me the opportunity with the Euroformula [car], and that’s how I started to do the step to formula cars,” Vidales explained.

Those first tests led to another one with a bigger car at the end of the year, when Vidales took part in two days of official FIA F3 testing at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit. After two years racing and winning in Formula Regional with Gandolfo’s backing, Vidales linked up with Campos Racing again in the same scenario of F3 testing at Valencia and after three fruitful days of work, they decided the time was the right to do a season of racing together.

“At the end of last year we tested with them and I think the environment was really nice in the team. I found what I was looking for, so we decided to do this year with them. They trust me, and I trust them. I think we both have the same mindset, the same goals and all the ingredients to have a great year,” Vidales said about joining Campos for 2022.

Vidales isn’t the only promising young Spaniard in the Campos F3 line-up this year, though. He is joined by Pepe Marti, who was already part of the team’s first Spanish Formula 4 campaign last year.

“Well, for F4, I think obviously being a new project and having the opportunity to join them in the new project felt very special,” says Marti, a Barcelona native. “Obviously, I had known Adrian before we decided to drive with Campos for the season, both Adrian [Sr] and Adrian Jr.

“I felt very welcome in the team. It’s like a family, and you get that sort of feeling that, obviously for me being Spanish, you don’t get that in many other places. So, for me it was an easy choice. Since the first moment, I felt really good with the team, and since the lift-off we were actually quite quick. So, it was quite a straightforward decision, and we made the move.

“Since I joined them last year in the F4 project, and obviously following along with the F3 and the F2 project, even though it was in the distance, I saw the determination, the work that they put in, not just here at the track, but back in the headquarters.

“There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes, and there’s just a lot of people involved which probably don’t get as much recognition as they should, but they work really hard. And just that overall determination the team wants to thrive and to keep going forward for me is the thing that stands out the most.”

Marti’s desire to continue with Campos for 2022 played a big part in his decision to move up to F3 for only his second year in cars after taking third in Spanish F4 last season. He went on to impress in a brief intermediate step in FRegional Asian Championship at the start of this year, finishing second to Arthur Leclerc.

“After a quite positive first year in single-seaters, with a really good end pace, it looked like the more appropriate option even if many people saw it like a very gutsy move. I just think it was the way of making my life harder, to grow more and to learn more from my team-mates and just the whole thing in general,” Marti reasons.

“Campos was also a big part of it because if I moved to any other category, it was going to be very hard to keep the relationship going. So, it was definitely another reason for that.”

Marti is the youngest driver on the 2022 F3 grid with his 17th birthday not coming until next month. The team’s third driver, American Hunter Yeany, is the second-youngest having only turned 17 himself last week.

On his side, Campos Jr – who raced for the team himself in Euroformula and Auto GP – is delighted to be able to continue his father’s legacy by helping young Spanish drivers further their careers.

“I remember every time that he could help the Spanish drivers, he was doing it. So, in this case, when we had the chance to have two Spanish drivers and two young and very talented drivers in our team, I didn’t have any doubt to go ahead with it.

“I did my best to have them onboard and that’s what we are doing. We are going to give them our best abilities to give them the opportunity to shine and will keep doing what we have been doing in the last almost 25 years.”

Establishing an F4 arm was one of the last decisions made by Campos Sr to help future racing stars. The 2021 season was its first in the Spanish championship, and with five wins Sebastian Ogaard was title runner-up for the team, just ahead of Marti. For 2022 the team has a more cosmopolitan line-up that includes French F4 runner-up Hugh Barter as well as Alonso’s own Alpine-affiliated protege Nikola Tsolov.

“This was one of the last projects that we had been discussing with my father,” Campos Jr says. “The fact of growing, but growing down. Looking to the categories under F3, so we can create a ladder all the way to F1, and we can have the drivers growing from karting all the way to F2 and then to the doors of F1. This was the main goal.”

Apart from that, the team also has the Campos Academy, which offers young drivers the opportunity to test single-seater cars in preparation for moving to car racing and also provides all kind of off-track support.

“We provide some training and let’s say coaching services to drivers that are maybe in different categories or even with some other teams but they want to have a full training programme, and they can do it in our workshop.

“They can test with us, they can train physically with us, they can do all the medical checks, they can also have a physio and a trainer with them in the races. These are all services that we provide apart from, of course, giving them the chance to test on track with our F4 cars or F3 cars,” Campos Jr explains about the Academy.

Franco Colapinto is one of those drivers who benefited from the Campos Academy services despite competing for rival teams. The Argentinian is a former Alonso protege and was part of the programme since August 2020 until the end of the 2021 season. During that time, he competed in FRegional European Championship with MP Motorsport as well as in prototype sportscar racing’s LMP2 category with Algarve Pro Racing, and is now racing against the likes of Vidales and Marti in F3 with Van Amersfoort Racing.

As for the future, Campos Jr wants to keep putting his efforts into helping drivers who lack funding, continuing this way his father’s legacy. And that’s not the only thing in mind, as he hints at further plans aiming at bringing more talent into car racing.

“What is in my mind in this moment is to be able to help drivers that cannot raise the amount of budget that requires racing at this moment. Year by year we are able to bring more sponsors that are helping us quite a lot, Spanish sponsors mostly, and all this budget that comes from these sponsors, we would like to put it into drivers that deserve the opportunity.

“That’s what we will do, but there are also some other things in our mind that we are trying to see if it’s possible to go ahead or not, and I hope that I will be able to share with you very soon.”

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