Phoenix driver now offically the youngest ever at the 24
Matt McMurry is now officially the youngest driver in the 82-race history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 16-year-old, second-generation racer from Phoenix completed an eventful first stint in the No. 42 Caterham Racing Zytek-Nissan prototype in the LM P2 class at around the three-hour mark. It was an adventure for the youngster, not through any fault of his own, but because of Mother Nature.
“It was going really well and I was having a lot of fun, and then it started raining,” said McMurry, who races in the IMSA-sanctioned Cooper Tires Prototype Lites powered by Mazda series in the U.S. “I spun going through the left [turn] in The Esses [which is near the beginning of an 8.469-mile lap at Le Mans], because I still had dry tires on. Then, I had to get all the way back going, like, 40 miles an hour around the entire track. It was just crazy out there in the rain.”
Think about that for a second. Here’s a 16-year-old kid in his first driving stint in his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – from Phoenix, where it almost never rains – who has been tasked with coaxing a prototype race car with slick tires around a nearly eight-and-a-half-mile circuit without hitting anything.
A somewhat minor spin was pretty good for McMurry, especially compared to a pair of front-running, factory-supported LM P1 prototypes that were effectively eliminated from contention when they crashed during the same rain storm. In fact, not only did McMurry manage to not hit anything, he got quicker as his stint continued.
“It’s probably rained more here [in the last hour] than it did all year in Phoenix, so I don’t have a lot of experience,” McMurry explained. “But they were saying I was running close to the leaders’ times in P2 at the end of my stint, when it was sort of mixed conditions.”
McMurry is sharing the Le Mans ride with past American Le Mans Series P1 champion, Chris Dyson, and current IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge full-time racer Tom Kimber-Smith.
“I’ve got to say big thanks to Chris and to Tom,” McMurry said. “They’ve just been helping me the whole time, alongside my coach, Gerardo [Bonilla]. We’re always looking at data and video with him.”
Matt is the son of Chris McMurry, who made two previous starts in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and also encountered a moment of rain in a driving stint. Once. The younger McMurry actually dealt with rain, saw the weather clear up and the track dry, only for another heavy shower to come along before he finally got out of the car.
A few minutes after his first driving stint, McMurry was still pondering the historical significance of eclipsing Mexican driver Ricardo Rodriguez, who was previously the youngest Le Mans racer at 17 years, 126 days on June 20, 1959. McMurry is 16 years, 202 days old.
“It’s sort of hardly set in,” he said. “Just because of the rain, you’re just so focused on that, ‘cause there’s so much to be thinking about when you’re out the rain.
“But I’m glad we finally did it. It’s been so much work to get here.”
McMurry then gave way to Dyson. He will drive a couple stints before handing the car over to Kimber-Smith for a couple stints of his own before McMurry gets back into the car.
“I don’t know exactly when I’m getting in the car, but it’ll either be dusk or it’ll be night out,” he said. “Night isn’t as bad as rain.”
NASCAR Wire Service