Early promise turns to disappointment for Matt Griffin

The promise of a strong result after qualifying on pole for the Sepang 12-Hours ended in disappointment for Matt Griffin and team mates Italian Gianmaria Bruni, British driver James Calado and Malaysian Mok Weng Sun.

They were forced to retire their Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 after just 77 laps. Bruni, driving the first stint made a cracking start and duly pulled away from the opposition. The Italian continued to make progress until came to lap a back marker. Unfortunately, the Lotus turned into the Clearwater Ferrari and the contact bent a rear toe-link leading to steering troubles and Bruni dropped to third.

The damaged right rear suspension components placed undue stress on the left rear tyre that deflated at the very end of Bruni’s opening stint as he nursed the car back to the pits to hand over to Griffin. The Cork ace was in superb form and despite the car missing crucial bits of the rear bodywork he still managed to post similar lap times to the leading cars before Calado took to the wheel. The British driver continued the strong pace until a rear tyre disintegrated due to the earlier suspension damage. In addition, damage to an ECU caused the engine to cut out sporadically and as the bodywork around the left side fuel filling port was damaged the team decided it was no longer safe to continue to race the car.

Afterwards, Griffin said, “The weekend started well with us being fastest in free practice and P1 in qualifying. Unfortunately Gimmi (Bruni) had contact with a slower car that caused damage to the right rear that led to our retirement. It’s very disappointing but that is racing, we had the fastest car and best team but you also need luck.” Audi led home a clean sweep of the podium places with the Audi R8 LMS of Laurens Vanthoor, Stéphane Ortelli and Stuart Leonard taking the chequered flag.

Meanwhile, reigning National Navigation Trial champions Pakie Duffy/Evin Hughes (Subaru) netted their second victory of the current campaign on the Midland Navigation Trial, the third round that was based in Drumshambo. In dry but icy conditions the Longford/Monaghan duo finished with a total of 32 penalties from the West Cork crew of Dermot Whelton/Mark McCarthy (Subaru) – their closest rivals with 68 penalties while the Novice combination of Monaghan’s Mark Deery and Cork’s Patrick O’Leary (Subaru) finished third with 85 penalties.

The winners lost time on the plot and bash section soon after the start in Drumshambo and further time at T.P. 16. A wrong departure near Arigna cost them 20 penalty points but they still had enough to claim the spoils. Whelton/McCarthy also lost time at the plot and bash sections of which they were eight while they had to skip a time points on the second card to stay on schedule. Pre-event leaders Keith McConnon/Micheál McCluskey (Subaru) had a torrid time and finished down in thirteenth position having accumulated 166 penalties. Duffy/Hughes are the new leaders of the series followed by Whelton/McCarthy.

Elsewhere, fifth place on the Limerick Autocross, the penultimate round of the O’Shea Bus Hire Munster Autocross Championship was enough for Ballyvourney’s James Lucey (Subaru Special) to claim the title for a fourth time. He was quickest on the first of the five timed runs and dropped to second on the second run where Clare’s Brian Hassett (Semog Buggy) topped the time sheets. Lucey failed to finish the third run when his Subaru broke the output shaft to the gearbox and ruled him out for the rest of the event. However, his second run time was sufficient to claim the title. Meanwhile, Limerick teenager Christopher O’Callaghan (Semog Special) set the best time on the fifth run to claim event victory from Hassett with Limerick’s Ross Hayes (Semog Buggy) taking third. A margin of 0.76 seconds covered the top three.

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