Josh Pierson will make 24 hours of Le Mans history this weekend.
At 16 years and 118 days, Pierson will become the race’s youngest driver. The current record-holder is Matt McMurry, who was 16 years and 202 days when he drove into the 2014 event.
“To be a part of the history of this event, to attach my name to it, is a very unique feeling,” Pierson said in an interview. “It’ll be more unique when it comes to fact and in the books.
“It means doing more to what is a very special event that I’ve watched on TV plenty of times. Hopefully, I can get my name in the book one more time being on the podium or even winning the race. “
Do not rule out the hope of the teenager from Wilsonville, Ore.
On his debut at the FIA World Endurance Championship in the 1000 Miles of Sebring in March, Pierson and co-drivers Paul Di Resta and Oliver Jarvis won the LMP2 category 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 be sharing the Oreca 07 with Jarvis and Alex Lynn.
“What’s really impressive is he doesn’t seem to be fazed by the stuff,” Jarvis said in an interview. “He’s so laid back that he probably doesn’t appreciate the grandeur of what he’s actually doing and achieving right now.
“He just seems to take everything in his stride at the moment. That ‘s actually an asset. I think he’ll just cruise through, it’ll pass him by, and it’ll be me and Alex with the stress on our shoulders. “
Pierson was 2 when he started karting, winning the Championship ahead of the F1600 open-wheel series at 13.
In 2020 and 2021, ages 14 and 15, Pierson was the youngest driver in the USF2000 in the Road to Indy series.
Last year, Pierson was approached by United Autosports to conduct a test at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. He was soon signed by the team owners Richard Dean and Zak Brown, who is also the chief executive on the McLaren F1 team.
“Looking back, I didn’t really know how big of a deal it was,” Pierson said. “It just happened so quickly, I was in shock almost.”
Brown credits Dean with recognizing Pierson’s ability and that his age would not be detrimental.
“He’s very fast and experienced beyond his age, and I’m very confident, with the right driver lineup, he will enjoy success,” Brown said.
Pierson is also Drive in LMP2 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with PR1 / Mathiasen Motorsports. The switch from single-seat racecars to sports cars has not fazed him.
“It has made me a significantly better driver because there is so much more to manage,” he said. “There are lots of little details with sports-car racing and endurance racing in general, such as traffic management. I’m thinking way farther than I was when I was doing single-seaters.
“The next time I’m back in a single-seater car, which I assume I will eventually, I have learned a lot that I can carry over to make a really good driver in whatever I do there as well. “
Pierson’s first love is Formula 1. He said he would like to emulate the young drivers Lando Norris of McLaren and George Russell of Mercedes.
“F1 is something you have a lot to go and pursue, and I’m all for pursuing it, but it is something I want to be able to go into confidence with,” he said. “I 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 category in 2020, and Jarvis, who has competed 10 times, winning LMP2 in 2017.
In the spotlight he has faced in the buildup to the race, he feels composed.
“I’ve had a lot of attention around me all year, so it’s going to be nothing new in this race with that,” Pierson said. “I guess it’s more so because I’m the youngest driver in history to compete. I know that’s a big deal to a lot of people.
“But I ‘ll just be calm and patient. If you try and rush things through, it’s not going to end well, so it’s about taking everything one step at a time and not letting the pressure build and get me. “
Jarvis knows once Pierson is behind the wheel, he’ll be focused.
“You can give him five or six areas to work on, which is a lot, and he’ll go and do it, which is incredibly impressive,” Jarvis said.
“His progression from the first test I did to him at the end of last year to now, in terms of his technique and the way he adapts, has been phenomenal. If he can maintain that, who knows where his career could end up. “
Perhaps it will be the top step of the LMP2 podium at Le Mans.
“We’ve got a good driver lineup, a good crew and a good engineer under our car,” Pierson said. “It’s just going to come down to how we execute it, but I think we’ve got a really good shot.”