5 things to know about Josh Pierson, the youngest participant in the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Teenager and committed to Le Mans can therefore rhyme. Josh Pierson proved it this weekend at the wheel of the number 23 United Autosport LMP2, which will start this Saturday at 4 p.m. (live on L’Equipe Live and the L’Equipe channel) from 11th place on the grid. departure. Even if he set a new record for precociousness in the Sarthoise race at 16 years and 4 months, the American, originally from the west coast, showed impressive maturity, considering himself that he is “more comfortable with drivers and mechanics than people my age”. Discovery in five points of a driver like no other.

A course that has just forked

After following the classic path of a future single-seater driver in the United States (karting then “Road to Indy”), Josh Pierson has taken the direction of endurance racing this year, where he competes in three separate competitions at the wheel of LMP2. There is of course the WEC, the FIA ​​world championship, which brings it to Le Mans, but also the Le Mans Series “Asia”, always with United Autosport and finally the IMSA (North American championship including endurance) with PR1 /Mathiasen. This choice came from an inspiration from Stephen Simpson, who coaches him in driving at the request of his father, Greg. Simpson sensed his protege had a special talent for endurance and introduced him to Richard Dean, one of United Autosport’s co-boss, at the start of 2021. After a first test, Pierson met Zak Brown, the other co -boss, incidentally at the head of McLaren Racing, then carried out a second test, in Austria, before joining the team which hires him today in Sarthe at the start of 2022.

Already the youngest participant and winner in the WEC

Taking part in the entire WEC season, Pierson has already set early records for the entire championship at the first event, on March 18 in Sebring (Florida), only a month after his 16th birthday. And this first was crowned with success with victory in LMP2 with Paul di Resta and Oliver Jarvis. “I did a triple stint, which is an aggressive strategy, he says, forgetting to mention that he managed it without changing tires, a small feat. The team needed it! This forced our adversaries to adapt and change their strategy. It was beneficial for us. » During this experience, he was also marked by the driver’s feeling of powerlessness on the low wall at the end of the race. “It was the first time that I had this feeling of not being in the car when something important was happening. Since I’m a control freak, being out of the car at that time was stressful. But it was beneficial on the aspect of sharing the car with other drivers and to fully realize that you are not the only one. »

Prestigious and supportive teammates

Between his age and his “silver” status (each LMP2 crew must include at least one driver classified, according to his performance and his pedigree, silver or bronze in addition to two gold or platinum), Pierson is necessarily accompanied by more experienced drivers than him. At Le Mans, his crew is made up of Oliver Jarvis, former official Audi driver, four podiums in La Sarthe and a victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona this year (with Meyer Shank Racing) and Alexander Lynn, current Formula E driver ( at Mahindra), winner at Le Mans in GTE Pro two years ago. He also evolved with Paul di Resta, former Formula 1 driver (four seasons with Force India). All were in support of the American, especially before his discovery of the Sarthe circuit. “Alex virtually accompanied me on the simulator to give me some tips and tell me what I can work on. We were chatting on whatsapp while we were riding together. I also have pages of notes from Alex and Paul di Resta! I will probably spend some time reading things on my phone before getting in the car, ”he laughed.

Winner in the LMP2 category at Sebring, the American made a remarkable debut in Endurance.  (S. Boué/The Team)

Winner in the LMP2 category at Sebring, the American made a remarkable debut in Endurance. (S. Boué/The Team)

He dreamed of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500

Even born 8,000 km from La Sarthe, the United Autosport driver felt a connection to the 24 Hours of Le Mans quite early on. When asked about THE race he dreams of winning, he replies: “Two come to mind. When I was younger, I was marked by Truth in 24, a documentary that follows Audi during the victory at Le Mans in 2008. I watched it so many times that I always wanted to do this test. The other race is the Indianapolis 500, which I followed a lot. I have the possibility of realizing one of these two dreams, I hope that I will have other opportunities in the future but it is special to be able to try your luck so young. And hopefully opportunities will arise for the 500 miles. He undoubtedly has time to see it coming and with Zak Brown of McLaren, present in Formula 1, Indycar and Formula E, he will undoubtedly have opportunities all over the planet if he continues to progress at the current rate.

Off the tracks, a brand new driver

Unlike France, most American states have set the age for a driver’s license at 16 (15 for accompanied driving). And given his “professional” activity, Pierson rushed to pass it at the required age. “Even if it would have been funny to say that I was doing the 24 Hours of Le Mans without having a driving license, I wanted to pass it as quickly as possible, it’s very good to get rid of that,” he smiles. Unsurprisingly, the driving test was passed on the first try. On the other hand, he failed the code once before getting it. “I’m not very good with all that is written tests in general, he regrets, but the part on the road, it was very good. He can now experience the joys of driving away from home. “I was surprised they let me drive here with an American license,” he says of Europe. It’s weird because the rules are not perfectly identical and the way of driving in the USA is not necessarily safer but I would say more relaxed. When there is an intersection, here people will pass whereas in the United States, they will make pleasantries about who passes first. Now, when I go there without hesitating too much, people look at me strangely! »

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