De­vel­oper who is a driv­ing force

Gra­ham Nor­wood meets a racing driver who hit the winning for­mula in his first ma­jor de­vel­op­ment

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Property -

If you think there is lit­tle in com­mon be­tween fast driv­ing and slow hous­ing mar­kets, have a word with Jamie Camp­bell-Walker, a Bri­tish world cham­pion driver who re­gards de­vel­op­ing houses to be the per­fect com­ple­ment to the race track.

“I race dur­ing the sum­mer and work on houses in the win­ter. It’s a good match,” says Jamie, 35.

He has de­vel­oped five prop­er­ties in the past, mostly small homes that he lived in dur­ing the work. But now he has spent well over a year on his big­gest project, a vast seven-bed­room house in Wandsworth, south Lon­don.

“The house had been 12 bed-sits for Pol­ish work­ers,” he ex­plains. “I bought it for a song in late 2006, re­ceived plan­ning per­mis­sion in May 2007 and got down to busi­ness.”

He worked on it be­tween race week­ends and teamed up with Hert­ford­shire builder Mick Wadey to trans­form the prop­erty. “We ran 25 per cent over bud­get be­cause party wall dis­putes meant we could only de­velop one half of the house at a time,” he ad­mits.

The big­gest task was turn­ing a coal cel­lar into a 1,300 sq ft base­ment with 6ft ceil­ings.

“It’s a bit am­bi­tious for a first full-scale de­vel­op­ment but it was worth it,” he says.

The project and Jamie him­self faced dis­as­ter in April when he broke his back in a 147mph crash at Monza in Italy. He es­caped paral­y­sis but spent months in a back brace. The smash wiped out much of his 2008 racing sea­son and stopped him work­ing on the house.

“It was a crit­i­cal time but I re­cov­ered, al­though ob­vi­ously the hous­ing mar­ket is now in poor shape,” he says.

But he is un­de­terred and, bank­ing on the mar­ket bounc­ing back in 2010, will buy an­other house next year for a sec­ond long-term project.

Jamie spent the early 1990s in sin­gle-seaters — the sort Lewis Hamil­ton cut his racing teeth on — be­fore grad­u­at­ing to sports cars. He now drives the world’s most pow­er­ful long-dis­tance cars in the Le Mans 24-hour race.

Mo­tor sport and prop­erty of­ten go hand-in-hand. Lewis Hamil­ton is fund­ing a scheme on the Caribbean is­land of Gre­nada, while Ir­ish­man Ed­die Irvine, the F1 team­mate of Michael Schu­macher, has a global prop­erty port­fo­lio worth £120mil­lion.

Jamie Camp­bell-Walker isn’t in that league — at least yet — but in­sists that there is plenty of over­lap be­tween racing and de­vel­op­ing.

“They both re­quire an eye for de­tail, a team that has to get ev­ery­thing right, and no weak link in the chain,” he says. “Oth­er­wise, it’s catas­tro­phe.”

Fin­ish­ing line: the project com­pleted by Jamie Camp­bell-Walker (right)

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