Matt McMurry is set to enter the record books, as the 16-year-old high school student and rising sports car racing star from Phoenix will become the youngest driver to start the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month. (En Français)
McMurry, who will be 16 years and 202 days old on June 14, will dethrone Mexican Ricardo Rodriguez, who was 17 years and 126 days old when he took the start of the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours aboard an Osca 750 TN.
The second-generation driver will pilot the No. 41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek Z11SN-Nissan with Chris Dyson and Tom Kimber-Smith as part of the history making run.
Endurance-Info caught up with McMurry to get his thoughts on the news, which was made official on Tuesday.
What are your feelings about being set to become the youngest starter at Le Mans?
“My first reaction is that I almost can’t believe it! Is it really true? When you work so hard for so long to accomplish a goal, and then all of sudden it’s there right in front of you … Well, it’s sort of shocking!
“When I set out on this path four years ago, I learned that many people thought it was unobtainable. But, there have been a small number of people along the way who were very, very supportive and encouraging.
“They said I should chase my dreams, even though it wouldn’t be easy. I’m really appreciative of these people. Every one of them went out of their way to help. I’m very lucky to be able to call them my friends and I know they are as excited as I am that our collective effort looks like it will pay off on June 14!”
What does Le Mans mean to you?
“There is only one event that I can think of in all of motorsport where the greatest drivers — regardless of the form of motorsport they routinely participate in — all come to race and that is Le Mans. To me Le Mans is the all-star game for motorsports, where the very best drivers in the sport assemble once a year.
“I got my first taste of Le Mans in 2008 as a 10 year old, when my dad raced there. We visited Paris, Normandy and Arles too during our 4-week visit, but it is Le Mans that stuck in my mind.
“Two years later for a 7th grade school project about what I wanted to accomplish before attending university, I listed “become the youngest driver ever at Le Mans.” That’s when this incredible journey began. Now 60+ races later, 20,000 miles of seat time later, and 175,000 frequent flier miles later, I’m at the doorstep of my goal. We leave for Paris this Sunday… I can’t wait!
What has been the biggest challenge to get to this point?
“The biggest challenge has been the shear intensity of the development process. The earliest you can race cars in the U.S. is 13-14 years old. And to prepare for driving and racing an LMP2 requires that you step your way gradually through the junior ranks, and learn how to succeed at each level before moving to the next one.
“The trouble is, that in order to break the youngest-ever record at Le Mans, there was not a lot of time to be gradual. The entire process had to be accomplished from age 13 to 16, three short years.
“Long story short, I pretty much go to school, eat, sleep, work out and race. I wouldn’t trade that routine for anything. It has been very intense, though I feel completely ready and I believe our dual 4th place overall finishes at Silverstone and Imola demonstrated that to be the case.”
Ricardo Rodriguez, alongside his brother Pedro, was an icon for the fans at Le Mans. Do you know their story?
“Yes, I know their story well. I have the 607-page book about them titled by The Brothers Rodriguez written by Carlos Eduardo Jalife-Villalon. The book is full of pictures of Ricardo and Pedro and so I feel like I know them through the pictures.
“They were both very successful drivers, both made it into F1 and collectively they raced at Le Mans 18 times with 4 class wins between them.”
As your father Chris has raced several times at Le Mans, what kind of advise has he shared?
“H has shared his experiences with me and I’m sure we will get into more details as we get to the track. I also have received some great Le Mans-specific advice from 4-time Le Mans class winner Johnny O’Connell, and I know I’ll be asking my co-drivers and others for tips, too.
“It’s a very big circuit and there is a lot to learn. The devil is in the details, meaning that I want to know the smallest tips and tricks on how to get the best laps and how to manage my performance in a race that’s 6 times longer than any race I’ve ever done before.”
What are your exceptions for the race?
“I do think we have a very good package for the race between our driver line up and the team’s proven track record at Le Mans. A podium would be out of this world and it is our goal. But, Le Mans is such a long race that people tell me you really have to take it one hour at a time.
“I’m hoping that we can do what we’ve done at Silverstone and Imola, which is to run mistake free throughout the race. If we can do that, good things will happen.”