In the first installment of a new series, Matt Griffin discusses his rivalry with the late Allan Simonsen, which spanned four seasons of British GT between 2009 and and 2012.
Definitely the one which springs to mind is from the British GT championship around 2009-2012, where myself and Allan Simonsen had a huge rivalry. We were both in Ferraris, which was a rivalry in itself to be the best Ferrari, but we were always trying to be the top guy in British GT, which as it is now, was super, super competitive at the time.
We’d come in and the first thing I’d do was not to look where I was on the timing screens, but look where he was and see if I was in front of him. I can’t say that Allan and I were really close friends, but I think when you have a strong rivalry like that, you can’t be!
There were times where we were basically knocking the hell out of each other, we’d come in with bits hanging off and everything. One race I particularly remember was at Oulton Park in 2012 where there was myself, Richard Westbrook and Allan all were fighting over second place. It was a really intense battle, Allan ended up finishing second, I was third and Westy was fourth. During that race, Allan and I touched two or three times, we were squeezing each other to the edge of the track, leaving just enough room to the millimeter.
It was amazingly close, but nothing went in my opinion over the limit, nothing I would deem dangerous driving or anything like that. There was a huge respect between us. We came in at the same time, I got out of my car and before we’d even taken our helmets off we walked over and shook hands with each other.
I was at Le Mans when Allan got killed and it was a really tough day for me, particularly because we were essentially the same, two guys trying to make it as professional drivers in a sport that is very hard to make a living from. We were going round the world and plying our trade, I’d seen him Australia where we’d race against each other, we’d see each other at Spa, race against each other at Le Mans, so it was really, really tough. He had a young family and it really brought home that something like this can actually happen.
We were two guys in Ferraris, but we were also the two of the quickest guys in the championship. It was like a cigarette paper between us, so that’s the kind of rivalry which for me really stands out.