From Morgan Park to the World

From Datsun and Go Karts on Morgan Park Raceway at Warwick to winning Dayton. The Porsche Penske Motorsport team drivers, from left, Josef Newgarden, Felipe Nasr, of Brazil, Warwick's own Matt Campbell, and Dane Cameron, celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the Rolex 24 hour auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, 28 January, 2024, in Daytona Beach, Florida. Picture AP Photo/John Raoux).

By Tania Phillips

Warwick’s Morgan Park Raceway has become a training ground for international success with local product Matthew Campbell this week becoming the first Australian to win the illustrious Rolex Daytona 24 Hour race outright.

Campbell, who’s grandfather Bill Campbell was instrumental in setting up Morgan Park, was part of the Porche Penske Motorsport team that secured the event – one of the top prizes in motorsport.

He combined with ex-Formula One racer Felipe Nasr, reigning Indy 500 Champion Josef Newgarden and sports car specialist Dane Cameron to finish two seconds ahead of a faster Cadillac prototype crewed by Tom Blomqvist, Pipo Derani and Jack Aitken.

The man who started racing Go Karts as a child in Warwick before progressing to a much-loved Datsun, played a starring role for the team snatching the lead from Cadillac and Acura rivals early in the race.

Long-time Warwick and District Sporting Car Club and Morgan Park Committee member Brian Dunn said it was a head-spinning moment for the club to have someone who cut their teeth on the local course win one of the biggest events in the world in the sport.

However, he said it was also well deserved.

“He is a young fellow that has a lot of natural talent and unusually he hasn’t lost that country boy thing, it hasn’t gone to his head,” Dunn said.

“He’s still the same man that went to high school here.

“He’s just got a natural talent and to get to the level he has on the world stage, this is top of the world performance stuff as far as sports cars go and to drive for Porche and Penske that’s the pinnacle.

“He has been doing well on the world stage for a while, he progressed through Porche pyramid to get there and that’s the very top now. It’s a credit to him that it hasn’t spoiled him.

“He went over there by himself as a young fella, into Europe and progressed all the way through, it’s a real credit to him.

“And when he comes back he’s just the same Matt Campbell.”

Another car club member and old family friend, who wished not to be named echoed Dunn’s sentiment that he was still a Warwick boy, reminiscing about watching him grow up and race at Morgan Park.

“I’ve raced against him many many times – he never lapped me that’s one good thing, I always remind him of that,” he quipped.

“He came home from Europe a couple of times early on and he’d just go get his Datsun 1200 and come here and race it in Group N.

“He’d go from a million dollar Porche down to his Datsun – not a problem.

“His grandfather, who is no longer with us was the one that really got Morgan Park going – he was the driving force behind the raceway early in the piece and his Aunty has a group N car and she races. It’s in the blood.”

The friend said Campbell had been racing and watching racing from an early age.

“He used to love going to Bathurst. He was going there from 10 or 11 to watch the races down there. He pestered them to take him down there,” he loved

“He still really loves coming home to drive Bathurst – I think it’s on the 17th of this month this year – the 12-hour.

“I think he’s the first Australian to win Daytona outright. Last year or the year before he won a lower category at Daytona but this is the first time for the outright.

“A boy from Warwick who loves to drive his Datsun and he’s now the Daytona 24-hour winner.”

Meanwhile racing returns to Morgan Park this weekend – though on two wheels not four – for the 2024 Road and Race/Ricondi Southern Downs Road Racing Championships on Saturday and Sunday.