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Pierson ‘Can Hold Head High’ at Youngest Driver Honor

16-year-old Josh Pierson set to become youngest-ever starter at 24 Hours of Le Mans…

Photo: United Autosports

Josh Pierson is set to become the youngest-ever 24 Hours of Le Mans driver this weekend and the 16-year-old American believes that he can “hold my head high” at that honor.

Pierson will be 16 years, 118 days old when he takes part in next weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship race driving the No. 23 United Autosports Oreca 07 Gibson.

The teenager made his sports car racing debut this year after previously running in U.S. F2000.

His age will beat the 16 years, 202 days status of fellow American Matt McMurry, who became the youngest Le Mans driver when he contested the 2014 race in a Greaves Motorsport-run LMP2 car.

“It’s something that’s in the back of my head, but to me, it’s just a nice bonus,” Pierson said.

“To come to such a historic event and get to be a part of that history, no matter what happens is something special.

“It kind of takes a little bit of pressure away and for me it’s something that, you know, I can hold my head high, knowing that I’ll be a part of Le Mans’ deep history.

“I think Le Mans is a special event to me. Growing up, I watched a lot of documentaries and a lot of films about it.

“Ford v Ferrari that came out more recently, and [the] Truth in 24 documentary about Audi.

“So I’ve always loved this event, I’ve always wanted to compete, and I’ve always wanted to win. So I’m happy to be here and to have that opportunity.”

Pierson noted that Le Mans naturally brings some more pressure than other sports car races, but he feels assured in how he has been settling into the LMP2 environment.

“There’s more history involved in this event than the others that we’ve been to so far this year,” he said.

“But for me, it’s just getting back behind the wheel and doing my job and what I’ve been doing for the rest of the season.

“We had a strong result in Sebring, and a dream start to the year. Then at Spa, we had a good race going before we had the door break unfortunately, but I’m going to be focusing on the race ahead and doing my job.”

Pierson has achieved three LMP2 victories in two series so far this year.

He and di Resta swept the Asian Le Mans Series double-header in Abu Dhabi before winning in class at the 1000 Miles of Sebring alongside Jarvis.

Pierson’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship campaign with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports has so far yielded a best result of fourth at two rounds including the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

“I’m able to keep building confidence and every time I’m in the car, I’m a bit quicker,” he suggested.

“When you look at Spa when I had to drive through the field after our bad qualifying session, I think every time in that car, I get more confident and I’m a little bit faster.

“I think the win at Sebring was a big boost in confidence coming into the next couple of races and even if I hadn’t had a good result there, I’m confident in my ability and Alex and Oliver to do the job that they’re there for.

“I think I can come into this race with confidence either way, but it was definitely a big confidence boost to us.”

Pierson has been in capable hands with support from three experienced Platinum-rated drivers.

Lynn and Jarvis sent him “extensive notes” to pore over before Le Mans, while di Resta was brought in to provide support at the test day as the other two drivers traveled in from the IMSA race in Detroit.

“I think I’ve got a good team under me, that’s going to teach me what I need to know going into the race,” Pierson said.

“We’ve got a strong crew behind us with the No. 23 car. So I’m confident in our ability to go out and win this race, but it’s going to come down to how we play it.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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