Throughout the year, Continental Tire will focus on celebrating the fans, media, drivers, and teams and their contributions to sports car racing, including a weekly trip down memory lane in Sportscar365’s Continental Tire IMSA Reflections series.
This week, Spirit of Daytona Racing driver Matt McMurry looks back on making his first Rolex 24 at Daytona start at the age of 17 and reflects on how his past experiences have him primed for a strong season this year.
What were the emotions associated with starting your first Rolex 24?
“Back then it was a big deal, the same as when I was going to Le Mans. I was very, very young to be doing it and so it was kind of overwhelming at first.
“There was so much going on at it was such a big event. It was freezing cold that year and that made it even harder. I’ve gotten to know Daytona over the last couple of years and I’ve learned to like it more.”
How much confidence did it give you moving forward to have competed in major events like the Rolex 24?
“That was a pretty big boost, and probably even a bigger boost the following years in a Porsche. In those years, I was a lot better then and I was really racing against some really good guys.
“While you’re driving you look over and go, ‘Whoa!’ when you release Olivier Pla or someone like that is in the other car.
“It’s an even bigger confidence booster when you see the other guys you are competing with and it reminds you how well you’re actually doing.”
What was your first starstruck ‘Whoa!’ moment on track?
“I think one was two years ago with Park Place in the middle of the night some time, and I was racing against Ian James who lives 20 minutes away from me in Phoenix and I’ve known him for a long time.
“It was like, ‘I’m really racing these guys’ and it was cool.”
How have your past experience prepared you for the challenge of stepping up to the Prototype class with Spirit of Daytona Racing this year?
“It all builds up to this. Last year with the P2 racing in ELMS and at Le Mans, especially Le Mans, because I was the fast guy in the car.
“I was the one qualifying for us, I was the one taking the lead on setup stuff. That was a really cool experience and it was a ton of experience because I drove almost 40 percent of that race, something like 10 hours.”