Josh Pierson will make history at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend.
At 16 years and 118 days, Pierson will become the youngest driver in the race. The current record holder is Matt McMurry, who was 16 years and 202 days old when he competed in the 2014 event.
“To be part of the history of this event, with my name attached to it, is a very unique feeling,” Pierson said in an interview. “It will be more unique when it’s done and in the books.
“It means more than doing what is a very special event that I have watched on TV many times. Hopefully I can get my name in that book one more time by being on the podium or even winning the race.
Don’t dismiss the hope of Wilsonville teenager Ore.
On his FIA World Endurance Championship debut at the 1000 Miles of Sebring in March, Pierson and his co-drivers Paul di Resta and Oliver Jarvis won the LMP2 class for United Autosports. Pierson and di Resta also won their first race together in the Asian Le Mans Series.
At Le Mans, which was first held in 1923, Pierson will share the wheel of the Oreca 07 with Jarvis and Alex Lynn.
“What’s really impressive is that he doesn’t seem fazed by things,” Jarvis said in an interview. “He’s so laid back that he probably doesn’t appreciate the greatness of what he’s doing and achieving right now.
“He just seems to be taking everything in his stride right now. It’s actually a plus. I think he’ll just go through it, it’ll pass him, and it’ll be me and Alex with the stress on our shoulders.
Pierson was 2 when he started karting, winning championships before moving to the open-wheel F1600 series at 13.
In 2020 and 2021, aged 14 and 15, Pierson was the youngest USF2000 driver in the Road to Indy series.
Last year Pierson was approached by United Autosports to test at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. He was soon signed by team owners Richard Dean and Zak Brown, who is also the general manager of the McLaren F1 team.
“Looking back, I didn’t really realize how important it was,” Pierson said. “It happened so fast, I was almost in shock.”
Brown credits Dean for acknowledging Pierson’s ability and that his age wouldn’t be detrimental.
“He’s very fast and experienced beyond his age, and I’m very confident that with the right driver line-up he will be successful,” Brown said.
Pierson is also driving in LMP2 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports. The shift from single-seater racing cars to sports cars did not faze him.
“It made me a much better driver because there’s so much more to deal with,” he said. “There are a lot of little things with sports car racing and endurance racing in general, like traffic management. I think a lot further than when I was racing single-seaters.
“The next time I’m back in a single-seater, which I guess I will eventually, I’ll have learned a lot that I can leverage to make me a really good driver in everything I do there as well. ”
Pierson’s first love is Formula 1. He said he would like to emulate young drivers Lando Norris of McLaren and George Russell of Mercedes.
“F1 is something that you absolutely have to pursue, and I totally agree, but it’s something that I want to be able to approach with confidence,” he said. “I would love to go, but it’s about keeping the doors open, and we’ll see what happens.”
For Le Mans, he has two experienced drivers alongside him in Lynn, who won the GTE Pro class in 2020, and Jarvis, who raced 10 times, winning LMP2 in 2017.
Despite the spotlight he faced in the build-up to the race, he feels calm.
“I’ve had a lot of attention around me all year, so it’s nothing new to approach this race with that,” Pierson said. “I guess it’s more because I’ll be the youngest driver in history to compete. I know this is a big problem for a lot of people.
“But I’m just going to stay calm and patient. If you try to rush through things, it’s not going to end well, so it’s about taking everything one step at a time and not letting the pressure build up and get to me.
Jarvis knows that once Pierson gets behind the wheel he will be focused.
“You can give him five or six areas to work on, which is a lot, and he’ll go for it, which is incredibly impressive,” Jarvis said.
“His progress from the first test I did with him at the end of last year to today, in terms of technique and adaptation, has been phenomenal. If he can maintain that, who knows where his career could end.
It will perhaps be the top step of the LMP2 podium at Le Mans.
“We have a good driver team, a good crew and a good engineer under our car,” said Pierson. “It will just depend on how we execute it, but I think we have a very good shot.”