CORK racing ace Matt Griffin takes part in this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours with British teammates Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott in the No. 55 Michelin shod Spirit of Race run Ferrari 488 GTE EVO.
They compete in the LMGTE AM class that has some 22 crews - 12 in Ferrari’s, eight Porsche 911 RSR’s and two Aston Martin Vantage AMR’s, the latter includes the TF Sport car that will be piloted by Belfast’s Charlie Eastwood along with Briton Jonathan Adam and Turkish driver Salih Yolo.
Griffin has vast experience of this iconic race and is the gold category driver of the trio. “The last podium I had at Le Mans was in 2013 with AF Corse alongside Jack Gerber and Marco Cioci. It’s sure a tough race. Since then (2013) I’ve been very close numerous times finishing fourth and fifth and last year we were running second until we had suspension failure.”
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the race takes place behind closed doors - a huge change considering over 250,000 fans watched last year’s event at the 8.467-mile circuit that has 38 turns.
Griffin said: “The atmosphere will be strange for sure. In one way it’s a bit easier and less stressful for us (drivers) as we have less media engagements and all of that, but the event is definitely missing something without the razzmatazz.”
Since lockdown ended Griffin has certainly been busy.
“I’ve raced in the British GT Championship, the European Le Mans Series and the Le Mans Cup. I have raced eight times but they have all been in the last ten weeks. The season is going well and we won the last round of the European Le Mans series in Paul Ricard so coming here (Le Mans) off the back of that win is definitely confidence-inspiring.”
He places great importance on Le Mans. “For me it’s 100% the most important race in the world, it is steeped in history and very difficult to win.”
However, Griffin is certainly of the view that a podium place is attainable but adds. “There looks to be about 12 cars capable of winning the race. Aston Martin are very strong along with Porsche and apart from ourselves, there are also a number of very strong Ferrari’s.”
Identifying the most difficult part of the race he commented. “The start is always difficult due to the pressure but after you settle in, it’s about going as fast as you can at every corner of every lap. Unpredictable weather will also make it a lot more difficult.”
Due to his gold-rated status Griffin will race close to the maximum of twelve hours (over several stints) with Scott and Cameron making up the other twelve hours in their stints.
There are two free practice sessions Thursday with qualifying in a 45-minute window beginning at 4.15pm. The race begins on Saturday at 1.30pm Irish time.
Also this weekend, the World Rally Championship continues with Rally Turkey, the fifth round of the series. Toyota pair Sebastien Ogier (79 points) and Elfyn Evans (70 points) head the standings with reigning champion Ott Tanak (Hyundai) four points behind Evans.
Belgian driver Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20 WRC), who failed to score any points last time out, will be hoping to redress some of his 37 points deficit to Ogier.