Matthew Griffin is having a busy year. He is contesting two championships at the same time: the World Endurance Championship with Clearwater Racing (Ferrari 488 GTE with Weng Sun Mok and Keita Sawa and the European Le Mans Series (Ferrari 488 GTE Spirit of Race with Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott). The WEC, of course, includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
How has the World Endurance Championship been so far?
“We won the first round in LM GTE Am after a fabulous last lap. I stood third. In front there was Pedro Lamy (#98 Aston Martin Vantage) and Miguel Molina (#54 Ferrari 488 GTE). They ran into each other at Stowe and I managed to avoid them. At Spa-Francorchamps we raced very sensibly and came third. We’ve made a good start. Clearwater Racing is an excellent team. My crew are great. We’re always in a position to fight for a place on the podium. I think that once we get to Asia at the end of the season we’ll be an even more formidable opponent because my teammates know both circuits [Shanghai and Fuji]."
You contributed to the development of the Ferrari 488 GTE. What do you think of it?
“It’s a fantastic car, but it means going from natural aspiration to turbo. That changes the way you drive, but Ferrari has done an outstanding job. It’s just as well, because Porsche has already introduced a new car and we know that Aston Martin will be doing the same next year. The standard of the GT class gets higher each year. I’m confident, I know that Ferrari will do all it can to maintain its standards and it was a huge privilege to be involved in the development of the 488."
Not only is Le Mans one of the greatest motor races, it’s one of the greatest sporting events.Matthew Griffin
The 24 Hours of Le Mans are upon us already. What does the race mean to you?
“Not only is it one of the greatest motor races, it’s one of the greatest sporting events. It was my childhood dream to take race at Le Mans. This will be my sixth time. My only disappointment is to have only seen the podium up close once. I’m going to try and remedy that. Even if it’s a privilege just to compete at Le Mans, we’re aiming for a podium for Clearwater Racing. I’m so excited to be back."
There are 16 cars in the LM GTE Am class and several hopefuls. How do you imagine the race panning out?
“This class is a tough one. At least ten cars could win. Le Mans is such a gruelling race, for drivers, the whole team and the car. I say it would be best to hold steady at first and gradually build up our attack over the course of the 24 hours. Bad weather is always a possibility so we have to be prepared for that eventuality. I’ll be approaching the race with some experience under my belt. Clearwater Racing also competed last year, so we have every chance of making the top three."
How difficult is it to share a car with drivers who are not in the same category as you? [Griffin is a FIA gold-rated driver]
“To me, that’s what endurance is all about! The 24 Hours of Le Mans and endurance races in general have always included amateur drivers. Sometimes I only drive with professionals, sometimes with amateurs, but I think it’s an important aspect of the discipline. Amateur drivers are racing fans through and through. You can feel their passion – it’s contagious – and that’s fantastic"
So, what’s your role, as a professional? Do you give advice, help them manage their race, or improve their techniques?
“All of that. We help them improve their pace by analysing the data and watching the videos. I also give them some guidance about the race itself, and that’s where my experience at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is crucial. For example, when it’s raining at Tertre Rouge, I’ll radio to say watch out, take this or that line. It’s an important role, particularly at Le Mans. I have to say, all my teammates have become close friends and it’s so much easier to work with people whose company you enjoy."
Photo (VSA / Laurent Cartalade): Matthew Griffin celebrates his pole position at Monza in ELMS.