IMSA Spotlight: Matt McMurry
Driver: No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09; No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
You have the unique program of running the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races with Park Place Motorsports, in a GTD class Porsche, and the sprint races with BAR1 Motorsports, in a PC-class Oreca FLM09. How did both programs come about?
“I have always wanted to build a portfolio of work that includes results in both GT and P cars, and this year was really the first opportunity to do both in a planned way, since the prior years had focused on preparation for the Le Mans record in a P car.
“Last season I met John Horton and Patrick Lindsey when I started to explore the GT space, and I also landed two impromptu appearances with BAR1 at Watkins Glen and Road America.
“Like many opportunities in this sport, this year’s plans started with conversations in the paddock, never quite knowing where they might lead.”
Do you enjoy having the variety over the course of the season? Do you prefer one car/class over another?
“It’s hard to choose when both are challenging and fun, and when my goal is to be known as someone who can driver anything well. In GTD this year, I’ve really enjoyed the constant close racing, being on a savvy team and learning from Porsche wizards like Patrick and Jorg Bergmeister.
“With the PC, I’m able to stay fresh in a higher downforce environment and learn from a crafty driver like Johnny Mowlem. In both cases, every time we’re on the track, we have a legitimate chance to win and that’s what I really prefer more than a particular class or car.”
How has your wide-ranging prototype experience helped you in the PC car, which is largely a spec car?
“The Zytek [Z11SN], Ligier [JS P2], Elan [DP02] and Oreca [FLM09] each need something a little different at different times to maximize their potential.
“Having driven them all has given me a bigger toolkit of techniques to try whenever I’m racing. This has been particularly useful in the PC because its range of grip and balance during a run varies more greatly than the other P cars, so you’re always needing to adjust.
“I’ve also learned a lot about what set up tweaks work under which circumstances, and coupled with my interest in engineering, I think that I can bring a lot to a team in terms of feedback and set up suggestions.”
You became the youngest-ever driver to start the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014. Has it been tough not taking part in the last two races there? What are your other racing ambitions at this point?
“My career ambitions have never really changed: make driving my professional career. At 18 years old, and even though I’ve done something like 110 races, I still feel like the best is in front of me and that if I keep progressing, keep accumulating experience, stay in touch with people and produce results, opportunities will come.
“As for Le Mans, I do really miss it. It helped put me on the map. There’s nothing quite like it, thus far, and my time there was storybook. I’m confident that I’ll have opportunities to return, and I look forward to it!”
You recently graduated high school. What’s next for you?
“I’ll continue to juggle both racing and school. I’m used to those demands and from that perspective life will be the same going forward.
“I’ve decided to attend UC-Irvine, where I’ll study aerospace engineering at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering. It’s a great school, a lot of auto-related companies are located nearby and UC Irvine has agreed to treat me as an athlete, which will give me greater flexibility for racing.”