Josh Pierson will make Le Mans 24 Hours history this weekend.
At 16 years and 118 days, Pierson becomes the youngest driver in the race. The current record holder is Matt McMurry, who was 16 years and 202 days old when he rode in 2014.
“To be part of the history of this event, with my name attached, is a very unique feeling,” Pierson said in an interview. “It will be more unique when it’s fact and in the books.
“It means more to do a very special event that I’ve seen on TV many times. Hopefully I can put my name in this book again by getting on the podium or even winning the race.”
Don’t rule out the hope of the Wilsonville, Ore teenager.
Making his FIA World Endurance Championship debut at the Sebring 1000 in March, Pierson and co-drivers Paul di Resta and Oliver Jarvis won the LMP2 category for United Autosports. Pierson and di Resta also won their first race together in the Asian Le Mans Series.
At Le Mans, first held in 1923, Pierson shares the Oreca 07 with Jarvis and Alex Lynn.
“What’s really impressive is that he doesn’t seem to get upset about things,” Jarvis said in an interview. “He’s so relaxed that he probably doesn’t appreciate the magnitude of what he’s doing and achieving right now.
“He just seems to take everything in stride at the moment. That’s actually an asset. I think he’ll just drive through, it’ll drive past him and it’ll be me and Alex with the stress on our shoulders.”
Pierson was 2 when he started karting and winning championships before moving up to the F1600 Open Wheel Series at 13.
In 2020 and 2021, at ages 14 and 15, Pierson was the youngest driver in USF2000 in the Road to Indy series.
Last year Pierson was approached by United Autosports to conduct a test at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. He was soon signed by team owners Richard Dean and Zak Brown, who is also Managing Director of McLaren F1 Team.
“Looking back, I didn’t really know how big the business was,” Pierson said. “It just happened so fast, I was almost shocked.”
Brown credits Dean with recognizing Pierson’s abilities and that his age would not be a disadvantage.
“He’s very fast and experienced for his age and I’m very confident that with the right driver line-up he will be successful,” said Brown.
Pierson is too Driving in LMP2 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports. The change from a single-seater racing car to a sports car didn’t bother him.
“It made me a much better rider because there’s so much more to do,” he said. “In sports car racing and endurance racing in general, there are many small details, such as traffic management. I’m thinking a lot further ahead than when I was doing singles.
“The next time I’m in a single seater car, which I probably will be, I’ll have learned a lot that I can take with me to make myself a really good driver at whatever I do there . ”
Pierson’s first love is Formula 1. He said he would like to emulate young drivers McLaren’s Lando Norris and Mercedes’ George Russell.
“F1 is something that you absolutely have to follow and pursue and I’m all for pursuing it, but it’s something I want to approach with confidence,” he said. “I’d love to go but it’s about keeping the doors open and we’ll see what happens.”
For Le Mans he has two experienced drivers at his side in Lynn, who won the GTE Pro category in 2020, and Jarvis, who has competed ten times and won the LMP2 in 2017.
Despite the spotlight he was exposed to leading up to the race, he feels composed.
“I’ve had a lot of attention around me all year, so it’s nothing new to go into this race with that,” said Pierson. “I think it’s more because I will be the youngest rider in history to compete. I know this is a big deal for a lot of people.
“But I’m just going to be calm and patient. If you try to rush things, it’s not going to end well, so it’s about taking everything one step at a time and not letting the pressure build up and overwhelm me.”
Jarvis knows once Pierson gets behind the wheel, he’ll be focused.
“You can give him five or six areas to work in, which is a lot, and he’ll do it, which is incredibly impressive,” Jarvis said.
“His progress from the first test I did with him late last year to date in terms of his technique and the way he adapts has been phenomenal. If he can keep that up, who knows where his career might end up.”
Maybe it will be the top step of the LMP2 podium at Le Mans.
“We have a good driver line-up, a good crew and a good engineer under our car,” said Pierson. “It just depends on how we implement it, but I think we have a really good chance.”
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