Cork driver Matt Griffin ready to take part in his 10th Le Mans race

Highly-respected Douglas native has 35 wins with Ferrari
Cork driver Matt Griffin ready to take part in his 10th Le Mans race

Matt Griffin and his Spirit of Race team mate David Perel ready for the 24 Hours of Le Mans that begins at 4pm on Saturday.

IT’S one of the greatest motor races in the world and for a 10th consecutive year, Cork racing ace Matt Griffin is amongst the participants.

The Le Mans 24 Hours gets underway at 4pm this Saturday and Griffin’s Spirit of Race team, like all the other teams, will try and find the perfect balance between speed and reliability.

The Le Mans 24 Hours is one part of what is dubbed the “Triple Crown of Motorsport” that also includes the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.

Douglas-born Griffin and his teammates Briton Duncan Cameron and South African David Perel are amongst the 39 teams in the LMGTE-Am category where they will pilot the Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE EVO.

One of the most respected drivers in the sport, Griffin is held in high esteem by Ferrari, for whom he has 35 wins, the latest in the Pro-Am class at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps earlier this month.

Every season is aimed towards peaking for Le Mans and that Spa victory suggests that Griffin, a former Motorsport Ireland International Driver of the Year award winner, is right on track for the weekend.

In terms of endurance, they don’t come any tougher than Le Mans - a mix of the permanent track and public roads (the latter closed for the race) giving a circuit of 13.626km (8.467 miles) and top speeds of around 330km per hour (205mph).

TWISTS AND TURNS

Griffin knows the highs and lows of this iconic event, in 2013, he was part of the AF Corse outfit that took third place in the LM GTE category.

Two years ago, his team were leading the category with just 90 minutes remaining but suspension troubles dropped them to eighth.

He’s also been fourth and fifth. Last year ended in disappointment with a non-finish.

We had a test day on Sunday and all went well, we were fourth but that doesn’t tell a lot, I think nobody wanted to show what they have got at this point.

“The LMGTE class is really the most competitive as it has 39 cars. From the driving and engineering side we are in the fight to win it but there are so many variables that can happen,” said Griffin.

“The season so far has been going really well, we are lying second in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) and we have never been outside the podium places this year.

“After winning the 24 Hours of Spa I think that we are right where we want to be, but as always there is a lot that can happen in a race, we just need to avoid the bad luck and fingers crossed we can get a good result.”

Glanmire’s Eamonn O’Connell previously campaigned a Ford S2000 in Irish rallying but will debut a newly built Mk. 2 Ford Escort on next month’s O’Connell Group Cork ’20’ International Rally. Picture: Martin Walsh
Glanmire’s Eamonn O’Connell previously campaigned a Ford S2000 in Irish rallying but will debut a newly built Mk. 2 Ford Escort on next month’s O’Connell Group Cork ’20’ International Rally. Picture: Martin Walsh

Meanwhile, the O’Connell Group Cork ‘20’ International Rally that marks the return of rallying under the banner of Motorsport Ireland could be the first of no fewer than eight rally events between mid-September and the end of November.

A calendar of events has been published by the governing body following a meeting with their affiliated clubs that was switched to Zoom after a planned face-to-face meeting at a venue in Athlone was canned as it contravened public health measures.

The full list of rally events are: 

O’Connell Group Cork ‘20’ International Rally (September 19); Donegal Harvest Rally (October 2); Tipperary M.C./Carrick on Suir M. C. Forest Rally (October 10); Wexford Rally (October 17); Fastnet Rally (October 24); Kerry Mini Stage Rally (November 7); Mayo Mini Stage Rally (November 14) and Killarney Historic Rally (November 27).

It remains to be seen if all eight events will go ahead as planned, the close proximity of events could have an impact.

Annual statistics show that on average competitors participate in two events per season.

Elsewhere, Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan partners Monaghan’s Stephen Wright (Ford Fiesta R5) in Saturday’s PRM Group/RPM Motorsport backed Loughgall Rally, round three of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship.

Just four points cover the top four crews in this year’s series with former champion Belfast’s Jonny Greer holding a two-point advantage over Wright.

Donegal’s Aaron McLaughlin and eight times champion Derek McGarrity are also in the mix for the six-stage event. Former Irish Tarmac, National and Forest champion Josh Moffett (Hyundai i20 R5) is also on the entry.

West Cork co-driver Dylan Doonan partners top two-wheel drive exponent Barry Morris (Darrian T90).

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