Share, , Google Plus, Pinterest,

Print

Posted in:

Matt Griffin’s Decade At AF Corse: Part 2, The People & The Future

Living out of a suitcase, racing with friends and dreaming of becoming a chef

In Part 1 of this feature, Matt Griffin reflected on his experiences driving the Ferrari 430, 458 and 488s throughout his 10 years spent with AF Corse. You can read that HERE.

This, the second part, is more about the people involved in his time at AF Corse, whether it be Amato Ferrari himself, or long-time driving partner Duncan Cameron. It’s only natural that when spending years and years with the same company that you’re going to work with a variety of people, whatever line of work you’re in. And with Griffin, it’s been no exception.

Constantly drafted out to race with customer teams, the team around him usually shifts from week to week. There’s so many people he’s shared cars and garages with over the years that it’s almost impossible to include them all.

So instead, DSC focused on three of Griffin’s relationships, with Clearwater Racing, Cameron, and (Amato) Ferrari and asked Griffin to look back at how they’ve impacted his career.

The ‘Resoviour Cats’

WEC fans will know Matt Griffin as a Clearwater Racing driver, competing with the Singaporean team’s owner Weng Sun Mok and Kieta Sawa. But his relationship with Clearwater goes back long before the team’s first WEC campaign back in 2016.

In fact, Griffin was part of Clearwater as long ago as 2011, and was part of its incredible run at the Bathurst 12 Hour back in 2012, when he finished third overall with Mok and Craig Baird in a 458 GT3.

“It’s a cool team,” he told DSC. “It’s a little bit like Reservoir Cats!

“Clearwater is a team where the people involved are very proud of what they can do. We have fun, we have crazy parties after the races. Weng loves his wine, and stuff like that. And that’s the thing, I’ve been with them since 2011.

“The only thing I would say though is that the Matt Griffin you might see at ELMS races, or in Blancpain, is different to the Matt Griffin with Clearwater. There’s a different vibe there, and it’s a team that relies more on sponsors and partners.

“Because of this, I’m generally more serious because there’s more to do during those weekends, there’s very little downtime because there’s always somewhere to be because we have to entertain guests and make appearances.

“Don’t get me wrong though, I wouldn’t have it any other way, that’s what makes a World Championship a real challenge. I owe them a lot.

“I think when people look at my career, they shouldn’t judge me by my lap times, they should judge me by how long I’ve stayed in teams. I’ve never driven for a team once. And with teams like Clearwater, which are so successful, I keep getting asked back year after year.”

More than just teammates

Then there’s the Griffin you see with gentlemen driver Duncan Cameron, and usually, Aaron Scott. There’s a different chemistry in that garage. It’s more relaxed, but still produces results. This year Cameron, Scott and Griffin have already scored class wins in the ELMS and Blancpain Endurance Series and look set to challenge for titles in both championships.

Griffin and Cameron go back a long way, and as Griffin explained, clicked from the start.

“I met Duncan first in 2009, basically the guy who ran MTECH in the UK said they wanted me to test, I met Duncan, and didn’t know where it was going to go. I started to race with him that year, a little more the next and it just built. Duncan and I really gelled as teammates and friends.

“The nice thing is with Duncan, is that I can tell him when I get opportunities, like the WEC, which means I might miss a couple of races with him. And he’s cool with it, because he understands that it’s my career, and my livelihood. And he knows that when we race together, I am fully committed to him. We’re good friends; it’s nice to have continuity, especially as we normally have someone like Aaron (Scott) along for the ride, who’s another top guy I have so many memories with.

“That’s the key, and if Duncan decided he wanted to stop racing, or if I decided to retire, we would stay friends. That’s why what we have is different. There’s not many jobs where you go to work, and your job is to go and have fun with your best mates, and that’s what it’s like.

“There’s real trust and respect. There’s a lot of sharks in this business and a lot of pro drivers who want to take advantage of people. And Duncan recognises that I’m not like that. With me, he knows he can trust that I won’t ever screw him over. Part of my job is to help him spend his money in the right way.

“And staying with AF Corse is the right move for him, as Amato is one of the most trustworthy people in the sport.”

Fighting jet lag, fatigue and living life on the road

There’s a similar connection between Griffin and Amato Ferrari himself.

Griffin is a GT driver through and through, and therefore has never chased drives in prototypes like many do. Instead, he’s worked with customer teams all over the world for Ferrari, as a reliable hand, who week in, week out, will produce.

It can be a difficult life though. Rather than being tasked to compete one big championship and the odd other race for a factory team, Griffin will often be on the road constantly, for more than 30 weeks of the year, whether it’s racing in IMSA, the ELMS, WEC, Blancpain, British GT or at times, out in Asia too.

And that doesn’t take into account time spent testing or working for Ferrari/AF Corse outside of pure racing.

“I like that I’m doing fewer races this year than last, last year I did 31, and that was too much,” he admitted. “The driving is the easy part, it’s the personal aspect that’s difficult. It’s seeing my daughter, it’s never sleeping in the same bed.

I don’t think I did four straight nights in the same bed last year

“I don’t think I did four straight nights in the same bed last year. I also have to keep buying underwear, because I pack and repack my suitcase so often that everything keeps getting lost. Or, I don’t have time to wash them!

“Motor racing, is not as glamorous as people think,” he explained. “You get to a place like Fuji, arrive on the Wednesday, you’re destroyed with jet lag, you go from hotel, to track, to hotel, to track, to hotel, to track, then to the airport. Then you get back to the UK, are destroyed with jet lag again, because you haven’t even adapted to Japanese time.

“Then two days later you go to Portugal for a race. And it’s not like I can chill when I get back from a race. I have to do my training because the cars are super physical to drive now. I burn 1000 calories an hour in the car. And last year at Le Mans I did 12 hours.

“I burned 13 and a half thousand calories during Le Mans, and that’s almost a week’s eating for someone. I’m living the dream, but I’m just constantly destroyed, and never have days off.

“Nothing in life is easy though, you have to work hard.”

Life after racing

So where does that leave him? Into his 11th year with AF Corse, but still very much in the prime of his career in terms of performance, there’s still often chances to go elsewhere, move manufacturer, or change role, but Griffin keeps closing to stay put at AF Corse, and looks set to do so for the foreseeable future.

“I’ve turned down chances to go elsewhere because I feel I have credit here. I have enough credit that I can afford to make a few f*ck ups!” He chuckled. “When you go to a new place, everyone makes mistakes, but you can’t afford it, especially at 35.

“Here I know I can keep going. Amato (below, pictured with Matt) says I can race with AF Corse as long as I want to race. And that’s a nice thing to hear. But at the same time I always have my eyes open, I’m always talking and the phone does ring.

“I’m at my peak, in speed, experience, technical feedback. If I had a very good chance with a new manufacturer, maybe I’d finish my career with them. But only if it felt right. Only if it felt exciting.

“But if Ferrari ever ask you to do something, you do it, because they only ask you once.”

When Griffin does eventually hang up his helmet, he already has a plan pencilled in. And it isn’t in racing, instead, it’s in the resturant business!

“Someone asked me whether I want my career to finish at 50, or 40,” he said. “The reality is that I don’t want it to be over at 40, but I don’t want to be finished when I’m 50! I want the chance to do something else after racing. I want to quit doing this on my own terms, like Alan McNish. That would be fantastic. But unfortunately not many get that chance.

“I get chances to do stuff within motorsport a lot. If I could have my choice though, I’d like to do something that has nothing to do with racing. The trouble is that my experience is in racing. I understand the business better than a lot of people.

“When I’m done my dream is to open a small pizzeria, I’m very good at making pizzas and I’ve thought a lot about it. I want to call it ‘AF Corse’s Pizzeria’. And all of my staff would wear all of my old AF Corse team kit, so I wouldn’t have to buy uniforms. And it would open when I wanted it to.

“It would serve Moretti beer on draft. There wouldn’t be a menu. There would be bench seats, with paper on them, and I’d get the customer to write down what they want on that. I’d make the best pizzas in the UK.

The reality is that I don’t want it to be over at 40, but I don’t want to be finished when I’m 50!

“But to do that, I need to make a lot of money driving, so that the pizzeria doesn’t need to make money. So I’m staying with Amato for now.

“I guess AF Corse is like the Hotel California; you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave…”

Ram Racing, British GT and Amato Ferrari pictures courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography