Cork's Matt Griffin hoping to end on high in Malaysia

Cork driver Matt Griffin has raced across every continent this season and tomorrow the curtain falls on what has been an extremely busy season. 
Cork's Matt Griffin hoping to end on high in Malaysia

The increasingly popular Sepang 12 Hour event in Kuala Lumpur is his final racing destination of the season as he teams up with Italian Gianmaria Bruni, British driver James Calado and Malaysian Mok Weng Sun in the Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.

Racing mainly with the AF Corse outfit, Griffin has also spent time with the Clearwater Racing outfit and has built up a good relationship with the team. Confident of ending the season on a high note, he is by far one, if not, the busiest Irish drivers on the scene. Last weekend, he tested the new Ferrari 488GTE at the Paul Ricard Circuit in the south of France before flying back to Cork for a day before he jetted off to Kuala Lumpur — the track is just 45 km south of the airport.

This will be his 32nd race of the year that has many highlights. “Yes, it’s been a really great season,” says Griffin. “As for my best race, it is difficult to pick just one race but I think the first race of the season, the Dubai 24Hour that I won might be the standout race.”

Over the last few years, the Sepang 12 Hour has grown in stature and had attracted the main manufacturers. Griffin and his team mates will pilot the Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 with strong support from the Italian manufacturer.

Audi, Bentley, McLaren, Porsche and Subaru are also on the 26-car grid.

Griffin and company have targeted a podium finish. “On paper at least we are one of the favourites. Bruni along with myself and James Calado are all factory drivers for Ferrari, we all know the car well and have raced with each other before. We will be joined the Singapore-based Mok Weng Sun, who is double GT Asia champion so we should be rock solid on the driving front.

“The heat will be the biggest factor for both the drivers and the car. The cockpit temperature will be around 66C, I have been doing specific training for this so I’m confident and I am ready for the challenge. The standard of teams and drivers here is very high so I am expecting a very competitive race. In saying that, our sole aim is to win the race.”

Qualifying takes place today and will end with a top-15 shootout, the race begins at noon on tomorrow.

Meanwhile, despite offers from other teams Griffin will remain with the Ferrari-backed teams next season with most of his schedule with the AF Corse outfit.

On the home front, the third round of the Motorsport Ireland National Navigation Trial Championship, the Midland Navigation Trial will be headquartered in Drumshambo, County Leitrim. The opening rounds in Monaghan and Cork were won by defending champions Pakie Duffy/Evin Hughes and Limerick’s Alan Shinnors/George Shinnors respectively. Yet, it’s the consistent Keith McConnon/Micheál McCluskey that lead the eight round series — four points ahead of Duffy/Hughes with the Cork crew of Dermot Whelton/Mark McCarthy a point behind in third. The first car away is at 9pm.

On Sunday, the penultimate round of the O’Shea Bus Hire Munster Autocross will herald the return of the Limerick Motor Club to the series after an absence of 17 years. Former champion James Lucey (Subaru Special) is favourite to land the title and can actually clinch the series on Sunday with what he describes as a “reasonable finish”.

The event will take place at Ryan’s Quarry, Shanballyedmond, Rearcross in County Tipperary. Lucey has already won four events and is an impressive 37 points ahead of his closest rival Tipperary’s Peter Brennan (Semog Buggy). Meanwhile, Ladysbridge in east Cork is the venue for the final round that will be hosted by the Cork Motor Club on December 27.

The Killarney and District Motor Club will meet early next week to discuss whether or not to proceed with re-scheduling their Historic Rally that was called off, after Kerry County Council activated its emergency plan in the light of a Code Red weather alert last weekend. It is likely that plans to run the event will be shelved due to finding a suitable date for all concerned. Although accounts have yet to be finalised, the club is facing losses around €40,000 but in an overall context it will not affect the long term future of the club.

SATURDAY:

Garda Síochána Sporting Trial, Aughfarrell, Brittas, Co. Dublin, 11.30am; Midland Navigation Trial (Round 3, National Trial; Championship), Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, 9pm.

SUNDAY:

Limerick Autocross, Shanballyedmond, Rearcross, Co. Tipperary, 11am.

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