Matt McMurry set a Le Mans record at 16; Now he is planning a new career path

Exactly two people on this planet know what it’s like to drive in the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the age of 16.

Earlier this month, American Josh Pierson, aged 16 years and 118 days, set the record for being the youngest driver to ever compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Pierson broke the record for youngest driver set by another American, Matt McMurry, in 2014.

McMurry was 16 years, 202 days old, we crossed the finish line eight years ago in an LMP2 car for Greaves Motorsport in France. He raced at Le Mans three times. In addition to his record run in 2014, he drove for Algarve Pro Racing at both 2017 and 2020 at Le Mans.

“It feels like a long time ago,” McMurry said car week when asked to look back on his first exposure to racing history. “I had a little idea of ​​what it meant, but looking back, I really wasn’t. It was a crazy thing to do at such a young age.

“It was really difficult. I was still full time in high school racing at Le Mans. Not many people do that.”

Matt McMurry drove an LMP2 car for the Algarve at Le Mans in 2017.

Ker RobertsonGetty Images

Especially at 16.

“I remember certain moments from the days of testing, the race itself and the parade,” said McMurry, now 24. “The parade is always really memorable every time I’ve done it. it’s so cool It’s such a special event, there’s nothing like it in any other racing series. I definitely remember that.

“I remember the days of testing and how dirty the track was when you first went out, just dirt and oil and junk from road cars. I remember my first stint in the race which was in the rain, really torrential rain and so on was a very long lap on slicks in the wet.

“I had to do a lot of really cool parts of the race – Sunrise was another really cool one because that’s where the track is generally the fastest. Also I had to do the last stint which was with the confetti and the really special all the flags come out and wave the flags on the track.”

matt mcmurry small le mans

Matt McMurry was the 2020 Champion in GTD for Meyer Shank Racing in IMSA.

Iconic SportswireGetty Images

McMurry saw no confetti or flags at Le Mans this year. And he knows there’s no guarantee he’ll get another chance at the world’s biggest sports car race.

McMurry doesn’t have a ride right now. Despite a good run in recent years that includes a 2019 LMP2 Championship and a 2020 GTD Championship in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series and a third season finish last year in a GT3 car race in the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS comprised.

In the Fanatec Series, he was part of a winning class performance at the 2021 GT World Challenge America 8 Hours of Indy.

Unfortunately, as McMurry can attest, racing at the highest level can be a game of musical chairs. It’s a game where there are more drivers than seats. Right now he is looking inside from the outside.

And while he waits for the music to start up again, he finds himself right in the middle of the action on a different level. Luckily McMurry had a plan B with his racing career.

While racing, he graduated from high school in his hometown of Phoenix, then continued to juggle books and racing schedules until earning his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of California-Irvine in 2020.

These days he has a dream job for a racer who happens to have an engineering degree – again a pretty small club to be sure. McMurry works as a vehicle dynamics engineer for Honda Performance Development in California. There he is part of the engineering team working on the new challenger Acura LMDh for the 2023 IMSA season. He also plays a key role, recording hours on the race simulator for the project.

McMurry hasn’t come this close to a racing car in a long time.

“This year so far,” he said. “But it’s pretty close. The simulator we have is pretty good.”

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McMurry says he hopes to get out of the office and back behind the wheel later this summer.

“I’m still looking for races,” he said. “Nothing is confirmed, but I’m working on it. In the meantime I’m busy driving the simulator at HPD and building an LMDh car. Work keeps me busy a lot, which helps me to take my mind off things. I definitely miss it – racing and competing. It’s always a great time. I miss that. And I miss the people.

“The racer camp is such a small community and when you’ve been around for a while like I have, you just know everyone. You miss that part too. The nation is really cool. I really hope to come back.”

matt mcmurry hpd lemans

Nicholas Wolf

McMurry estimates his best shot at a drive this year is in an endurance race with a GT3 team looking to add a driver or two for a one-off drive.

As for Pierson, McMurry shared a few words of wisdom with the latest 16-year-old phenomenon from someone who was there.

“I would definitely say enjoy the moment,” McMurry said. “To break a world record and drive at Le Mans is really something special. It’s a race, it’s a competition and you have to take it seriously and it’s tough… but a lot of fun. Really try to remember everything. I wish I could have remembered more, but I think you say that about everything when you get older.”

For McMurry, he’s happy with his current path.

“I really found a perfect fallback job,” he said. “It’s really cool stuff that I get to work on every day. It’s a lot of fun to help with the design and development of the LMDh. I’m looking forward to the first race to show everyone what we’re made of.”

Any chance you’ll be in that cute Acura LMDh car one day, Matt?

“I’m working on that too.”

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