Griffin’s AF Corse team out of luck in Estoril

Cork driver Matt Griffin and his AF Corse team-mates, Briton Duncan Cameron and Italian Michele Rugolo, were out of luck in the 4 Hours of Estoril, the final round of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS).

Griffin’s AF Corse team out of luck in Estoril

Griffin and Cameron only required a top eight finish to win back to back titles in the LMGTE category and all looked well as they qualified their No. 55 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia ahead of their rivals, Andrea Bertolini, Viktor Shiatar and Sergey Zlobin in the No. 72 SMP Racing run Ferrari.

However, on the start line Cameron’s Ferrari was hit by another car and although he managed to get off the line, he limped back to the pits with broken suspension. Their rivals had completed about eight laps before Cameron re-joined the action. Even at the half way point of the race Griffin and Cameron were still on course for championship success as the SMP team were down in fourth place and needed to win. However, the AF Corse team lost more time when Griffin was forced to return to the pits as a problems with the wheel nuts caused some tyre and wheel damage. In the end the No. 72 SMP Ferrari took the LMGTE category victory to win the series.

Promising Cavan driver Chris Armstrong (Ford Escort) won the Germaine’s of Baltinglass Garda Síochána Mini Stage Rally by a margin of nine seconds from last year’s winner Richard Moffett (Toyota Starlet) from Monaghan with Kerry driver Mike Quinn (Ford Escort) a further 40 seconds drift in third.

Moffett was quickest on the opening stage where he was three seconds ahead of Armstrong with Quinn five seconds further behind in third. Punching in the best time on the next three stages Armstrong stretched his lead to 13 seconds as Moffett had to contend with an electrical glitch that prevailed for the remainder of the event. The penultimate stage was cancelled and on the final test Armstrong was able to ease off and take victory.

Former Dunlop champion Aaron MacHale (Mitsubishi) won the Group N category, early pacesetter Stephen McCann retired his Mitsubishi with engine related problems.

On Saturday, the Down Rally, the final round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship was cancelled after an accident that claimed the life of Ryan Bradley from Kilrea, County Derry. The accident happened on the opening stage of the rally when his Escort went off the road and ended up in the Lough Island Reavy reservoir. His co-driver Gerard Mullan was able to extricate himself from the situation and raise the alarm. Unfortunately, Mr Bradley was trapped in the car and his body was recovered by police divers. The Rathfriland Motor Club cancelled the rally at the first service halt and said they were co-operating fully with the investigation .

Meanwhile, the Ken Wharton Memorial International Autotest in Warwickshire on Saturday was won by the Northern Ireland team, who edged out the Motorsport Ireland team by just 3.9 seconds.

The individual competition was won by Navan’s Guy Foster on his inaugural outing in the competition, he finished 4.6 seconds ahead of multiple champion Northern Ireland’s Steven Ferguson.

Top ten for next Sunday’s Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally in Bantry

1. Denis Cronin (Subaru WRC); 2. Daragh O’Riordan (Ford Fiesta WRC); 3. Kevin Kelleher (Subaru WRC); 4. Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC); 5. Frank Kelly (Ford Escort); 6. Rob Duggan (Mitsubishi EvoIX); 7. Ed Murphy (Ford Escort); 8. Vincent O’Shea (Ford Escort); 9. Kevin O’Donoghue (Ford Escort); 10. L. Downey (Ford Escort).

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