John Campion, a much-loved and highly-respected car collector and supporter of Irish rallying, died on Friday after a battle with leukemia. Over the coming days, DirtFish will be paying full tribute to John’s life, work and passions, and explaining more about the massive contribution he made to the rally scene.
This included launching Team Ireland, which has provided the launching pad for the careers of some of Ireland’s rising driving talents over the last few years.
To begin, DirtFish’s marketing director Trevor Wert shared his own memories of John…
At a young age, I became a fan a cars. I was fascinated by their design, their speed and the emotion that the right car could evoke in a person. It wasn’t until much later in life that I began to understand what it meant to have a passion for cars.
I don’t mean simply being in love with the latest Ferrari or Lamborghini. I’m talking about something deeper. Those cars are beautiful and fast, but they are lacking one thing… a story. That’s what people with a true passion seek and what they love to share with the world and the people they meet.
John Campion was one of those people. He exhibited what it means to have a passion for the automobile. His car of choice? Rally cars from the early years of his life.
I met John in 2016, when I was asked by DirtFish owner, Steve Rimmer, to take two of the cars from his collection (a McRae Ford Focus RS WRC and Burns Subaru Impreza WRC99) to the Concourse D’Elegance of America in Michigan. When I arrived, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect or who I would meet. It wasn’t long before I found out. As I was giving the cars a final detail, I hear a strong Irish accent coming from around the side of the car wanting to know more about the cars. That was the moment that I met John Campion. After giving him a brief history and answering all of his questions, he went on his way.
Within minutes, I hear the unmistakable sound of a Fiat 131 come rolling up. The door flew open and John proceeded to give me an enthusiastic but brief history of the car. Just as quickly as he arrived, he said, “I have something else for you!” and drove off.
So I waited. A couple of minutes later I see a beautiful Martini Lancia 037 appear from around the row of trailers. It was John again. I was so excited to see this car in person, but that paled in comparison to the excitement from John as he once again flung open the door to tell me all about the car.
He again said, “I’ve got something else for you” and just like that, he was off again. This happened four more times with an Escort Mki, Stratos, Fulvia and finally, a Delta S4 works car! I knew this guy meant business. After picking my jaw up off the ground, we carried on with all of the Concourse festivities.
John and I interacted multiple times throughout the weekend talking about other cars and telling him about Steve’s collection.
On the final day of the event, we arranged the cars in a circle for display to the public. I asked him for a deeper look at each of his cars. This was a humbling experience. John took the time to show me all of the details on each car which was great, but the part that impressed me the most was that he not only gave me a comprehensive history, but he explained what he went through to acquire each one and what made each car special to him.
The final car we talked about was the Escort that was adorned in a Team Ireland livery. When I asked him more about Team Ireland, John explained that he had helped form the foundation to support up-and-coming young drivers in Ireland.
He was so excited about this at that point in time because one of the drivers who had come through the program had just achieved a third place finish at Rally Finland earlier that day. That driver was Craig Breen.
John embodied what it means to have a passion for cars. Not only did he have an amazing collection, his enthusiasm for it was intoxicating and he made you feel that enthusiasm. That impressed me, but to top it off, John hadn’t just used his success to buy acquire his favorite cars, he used it to help ensure that his home country would have a successful future in motorsports.
My condolences go out to his family friends and people’s lives he touched.