Matt Griffin and Peter Bamford have been given a boost ahead of the final round of the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Championship following a stunning victory in the GT Open at Monza.
At the wheel of a GT2 Ferrari 430 run by AF Corse under the Advanced Engineering banner, the pair secured honours in the opening race of the weekend, despite going up against a number of pro-driver pairings amongst the bumper field at the home of the Italian Grand Prix.
With Bamford having pitted shortly after a Safety Car period to hand the car to over Griffin, he set about making up places as the race wore on and a dramatic late battle with Jose Manuel Perez Aicart saw him come out on top for a first win of the year.
“Winning a GT Open race is just crazy when there are people like Peter Dumbreck and Richard Lietz racing,” Griffin reflected to Crash.net
. “There are a lot of top drivers and quite a few of the teams have pro pairings in the car.
“There was a Safety Car that helped us out, coming just before the pit stops. You can't pit behind the Safety Car but when it came in, Peter followed it down the pit lane. He was in 17th place but with the Safety Car, was only about ten seconds off the lead and was the first person to pit. I came out in clear track and was able to set a lot of quick laps. As I came over the start finish straight on one lap, I saw the cars that had been fourth, fifth and sixth coming out of the pits and managed to get past them into turn one.
“I caught and passed third place and then chased down Ferdinando Monfardini for second. That left me following the SunRed – which is a bit like a SEAT prototype – and I was much quicker. I caught Aicart but he was defending all the time and we touched more than once. However, I knew the Ferrari has good traction late in the race so on the last lap, I forced him to defend through the first chicane and I got run around the outside in the Curva Grande and it gave me the inside into Della Roggia. I got ahead and then pushed to the finish to take the win.”
The victory comes ahead of this weekend's season finale for the British GT Championship at Donington Park, where Griffin and Bamford will be back at the wheel of Chad Peninsula's GT3-spec Ferrari.
Having had a taste of victory champagne, Griffin said he would love to take another trip to the podium to end what has, at times, been a challenging season although he admitted that anything inside the top five would be a good result.
“It's a huge boost for us,” he said. “The GT Open is just as competitive as FIA GT or the Le Mans Series and it has more GT2 cars than any other series. We go to Donington Park now having had a taste of victory and the GT3 Ferrari should be good over the two-hour distance.
“We have a new engine in after the problems we had at Silverstone which will help and it would be good to finish the year on the podium. To be honest, we would be happy to get into the top five, but with a bit of luck, the podium certainly isn't out of reach.”