Matt McMurry says his internship with Honda Performance Development has played a helping hand in his Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup program with the manufacturer’s GT3 car.
The 21-year-old American, who is set for his Total 24 Hours of Spa debut this weekend, is taking part in a summer-long work experience program with American Honda’s California-based motorsports arm, while also driving Jenson Team Rocket RJN’s Honda NSX GT3 Evo in Europe.
McMurry, who is majoring in aerospace engineering at the University of California, Irvine, said both the internship and racing opportunities came together around the same time at the beginning of the year.
“It’s been great,” he told Sportscar365. “I haven’t been [at HPD] for very long because right after school ended, there was Watkins Glen and the Spa test day, so I was gone for a week-and-a-half for that.
“But I’ve been able to work on a lot of cool stuff. Everyone here has been super nice and helpful.
“It’s cool to be able to work on the cars that I drive.
“It’s cool to see how much goes on behind the scenes that you never hear about at the track. There’s really a lot of work that goes into, not only developing a new car, but continuing to improve the current ones.”
McMurry has been working in HPD’s aerodynamics department alongside the engineers that developed the NSX GT3 Evo’s updated aero package, with a focus on wind tunnel data analysis, according to NSX GT3 program manager Lee Niffenegger.
“It’s really cool because it connects his driving with what he’s doing at UC Irvine with his degree,” Niffenegger told Sportscar365. “It’s a really neat connection for all of us.”
Niffenegger said the opportunity has been a “neat little circle of motorsports and education” for the rising star, both as a driver and engineer.
“It made sense for us,” he said. “He had already been looking for something over in Europe to supplement what he was doing in [IMSA] and through his representative, they started talking with RJN.
“It’s really one of these things where, ‘Well if you’re going to do that, then you need this.’ It made all sense.”
While still only a few weeks into the internship, which concludes in September, McMurry said the lessons already learned will be able to translate to his driving.
“Normally driver feedback is [explaining] what the car is doing and we ask the engineer what we can do to fix it,” McMurry explained.
“The more I know, for example, the NSX GT3, I’d be able to feel what the car is doing handling wise and have ideas of [how to fix it] because I’ve looked at the data. You could almost skip a step.
“I’ve had a solid two weeks to work on some actual projects. I think it can help for me for Spa. There’s things I’ve worked on here or things I’ve heard in meetings that will definitely be helpful at Spa.
“It’s definitely unique and they wanted it that way because there’s probably not a lot of internships I could get with me being gone for three weeks in a ten-week internship.
“But it’s only like I’m half-leaving as I’m going over to drive the car and I’m able to come back and tell them about it.”
McMurry “Super Impressed” With Depth of Talent in Blancpain GT
McMurry, who has competed in IMSA, European and Asian Le Mans Series competition in recent years, has been impressed with the level of competition in Blancpain GT.
The Silver-rated driver is taking part in his first season of the Endurance Cup alongside co-drivers Philipp Frommenwiler and Struan Moore in the Silver Cup.
“I’ve been super impressed,” McMurry said. “I knew the series is competitive but, man it’s really competitive.
“It’s crazy being in a series where all 50 cars are racing against you. Everything else is multi-class and you only have ten of 15 others in your class. But at every turn there’s a battle.
“I think it’s been going pretty well considering all the drivers are basically new to the team and car. The team is new to the car as well, so we’re still figuring it out and developing it.”