Josh Pierson is taking his sports car racing progression “one year at a time” after signing on for another FIA World Endurance Championship season with United Autosports.
The 16-year-old American driver, who recently became the youngest-ever finisher at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was announced in June as a member of United’s six-person LMP2 driver lineup for next year, following on from his debut campaign which is ongoing.
Pierson told Sportscar365 that he is keeping his career options open for the future, with the NTT IndyCar Series being of particular interest, but believes that another term in the WEC will be beneficial.
He added that his continuation with United feels like the “right decision” based on his experiences working with the 2019-20 WEC title-winning squad this year.
Pierson shares the No. 23 Oreca 07 Gibson with Alex Lynn and Oliver Jarvis, with whom he sits second in the LMP2 standings.
“It’s always been taking it one year at a time,” Pierson told Sportscar365.
“I don’t know if there’s a longer-term deal for me in place. My dream has always been IndyCar, and single-seaters has always been where I’ve really wanted to end up.
“But I’ve always had the mentality that if I’m needed somewhere, that’s where I want to go. In motorsport, a lot of it comes down to driving something you didn’t originally think you were going to.
“For me it’s about keeping my options and doors open in each series, so I have bailouts and a means to make a career out of it. I think it’s one year at a time.
“Whether I end up in Indy Lights, IndyCar or LMP2… all of it’s a good learning experience. There’s so much experience to be gained from endurance racing.
“If I come into a category like Indy Lights or a different junior formula with that kind of experience, you end up with a lot of valuable knowledge that most of those guys won’t have.
“So it’s something that I think has been really for my development, but also to develop connections in the sports car world with LMDh coming out.
“This is something that has been to progress my future and United is a perfect team to do it with. We’ll do it one year at a time and see where it goes.”
Pierson felt there was no reason to change teams for his second season in sports cars, based on how he has integrated into the United setup this year.
The former USF2000 driver won his maiden WEC race at Sebring alongside Jarvis and Paul di Resta, although the No. 23 crew hasn’t been on the podium since then.
Various slices of “unfortunate luck”, such as early tire issues at Le Mans and starting from the back at Monza, have prevented them from stringing together another top-three run.
Despite that, they are in championship contention with two races remaining.
United has not announced Pierson’s co-drivers for next season. The Silver-rated driver suggested that he would like to keep working with either or both Jarvis and Lynn.
“United is such an incredible operation,” he said. “If it’s working, why fix it?
“In particular I have a really good relationship with my engineer, Will, who’s a great guy and very down-to-earth.
“He’s very hard on us, but that’s what I like. He might give a piece of information that I don’t understand or know about because I’m a new driver, but that’s learning for me.
“I appreciate the fact that he’s taken time to appreciate data and what I’m doing in the car. Each lap, if there’s something that I’ve done wrong, he’s really good at communicating that on the radio.
“That’s something I don’t just want to throw away. It’s been working so well, so there’s no point in not doing it again.
“I’ve learned so much in one year. I’m confident that it was the right decision and I’ve enjoyed working with all the guys at United.
“It’s a fantastic operation and I’m really looking forward to year two.”
IMSA Return Would Be for Enduros Only
Pierson’s first year in sports car racing has been about gaining experience by doing as many races as possible.
This approach has taken him to the Asian Le Mans Series, the WEC and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for a program that will total 17 events.
But that is set to be streamlined next year, with Pierson indicating that his full-season IMSA role will likely be dropped and potentially reduced to the four-round Michelin Endurance Cup. He currently drives for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports in his native U.S.
“It depends on what contracts I receive for IMSA,” Pierson stated.
“IMSA is a completely separate beast from WEC. There are different rulings and you don’t get to keep time when you gain it.
“I am willing, and would love, to do the endurance races again. I’d love to go back and do Daytona and Sebring. They were some of the best learning alongside all the WEC races.
“If I’ve got a contract next year for the endurance races, I will definitely consider taking it. But I don’t think I would do the full season again.”
Pierson explained that a full-time IMSA program is “really a year one thing” for his career.
“Those shorter races have been very valuable for me,” he reflected.
“It kind of forces me to step into a role more like Olly and Alex, where I’m just with a Bronze driver. I’m on track with all the other Pros and it forces me to work harder.
“At Mid-Ohio, it was not a huge gap: three or four tenths. That is a huge improvement from Laguna and other tracks. I’ve learned a lot from the short races.
“Coming into year two, I don’t need to do as many races. But it will still be a full schedule that will grab me a lot of experience for what I do in the next year.”