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Apr 16, 2014 - 07:03 AM
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Prototype Lites Helping McMurry Climb Racing Ladder Quickly
Posted by: newsla on Apr 16, 2014 - 07:01 AM
Sports Cars
Prototype Lites Helping McMurry Climb Racing Ladder Quickly


Matt McMurry's magical motorsports tour continues on its biggest stage yet April 18-19 at Silverstone, England.

 

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IMSA Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda driver McMurry, 16, landed a seat in the Zytek Z11SN Nissan fielded by Greaves Motorsport in the opening round of the European Le Mans Series, with veteran sports car standouts Tom Kimber-Smith and Chris Dyson as his teammates in the LMP2 class car.

It's yet another step up for Arizona native McMurry, who has raced or tested in a dizzying array of cars in the last 12 months. He has driven in P2, Prototype Challenge and Prototype Lites sports cars and also has raced in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda and Formula Mazda Bondurant open-wheel formula cars since last year.

"I'm just getting as much seat time as I can," McMurry said about jumping between so many cars. "Driving a Corvette is a lot different than a P2, but it still helps. Even though there are huge differences, there are always similarities."

Matt McMurry at SebringThere's no such thing as too much seat time for McMurry. Just last week, he spent an off weekend from his busy racing schedule to go karting at the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving near his home in Phoenix.

McMurry also is preparing outside of the seat for the challenge of racing in Europe for the first time on the fast, fearsome Silverstone Circuit. He is watching video of past races at the track and talking with his driving coach, 2007 Prototype Lites champion and Mazda factory prototype driver Gerardo Bonilla. And like most 16-year-olds, McMurry is playing video games to help learn the circuit layout. He also may get time this week in a high-tech simulator in England.

There will be plenty of challenges for McMurry this weekend in the English Midlands. He is climbing to the fastest and most powerful car of his career. He is paired with two winning veterans in Kimber-Smith and Dyson.

And even some of the simple facts of this event are new for McMurry. For example, this will be the longest race stint of his life, as he expects to put at least 80 minutes behind the wheel during the four-hour race.

"One goal is just to stay consistent throughout the whole stint," McMurry said. "I don't think it will be really hard, but it will be challenging to keep my pace up the whole race."

The Silverstone race is an important path toward McMurry's immediate goal of becoming the youngest driver in history to start the 24 Hours of Le Mans this June. Former Formula One driver Ricardo Rodriguez was 17 years, 4 months when he competed in an OSCA S750 TN in 1959 at Le Mans. McMurry will be 17 years, 7 months in June 2015, so his time to set the record is now.

That goal was born when McMurry was in seventh grade. McMurry and his classmates received an assignment from his teachers asking them to list their long-term goals. His PowerPoint presentation included a slide of an Audi R10 with the words, "Become the youngest driver at Le Mans."

Matt McMurryMcMurry's mother shared the PowerPoint with his father, veteran prototype sports car driver Chris McMurry. The entire McMurry family joined Chris at Le Mans when he drove in the world's most prestigious race in 2003 and 2008, helping raise Matt's interest in racing and spawning the dream of being the youngest driver to start at Circuit de la Sarthe.

Chris McMurry knew from his experience as a racer it would be a huge undertaking for Matt to set the record. He explained this to his son and learned Matt still was serious about the goal he placed into his school presentation.

So the magical McMurry motorsports tour started. Matt climbed quickly through the junior open-wheel ranks, racing in Formula Skip Barber in 2011-12, Formula Mazda Bondurant in 2012-13 and Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda in 2013.

But one of the most significant jumps in McMurry's road toward Europe and Le Mans came in August 2013, when he made his sports car racing debut at Road America with Performance Tech Motorsports in the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda. He finished an impressive sixth and fifth, respectively, in the two rounds that weekend as a 15-year-old.

McMurry remains with Performance Tech this season, balancing his desire to make a record-shattering start at Le Mans with his goal of contending for the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda title in his No. 16 √Član DP02.

"It's all kind of related because it's important that I do well in Prototype Lites," McMurry said of his dual pursuits in 2014. "Not just because I want to win it (Prototype Lites title) but also because people will be watching that."

A Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda championship in 2014 could put McMurry well on his way to a higher rung on the sports car racing ladder, as he already is the first member of the Junior Development Program created by legendary championship sports car team Dyson Racing. McMurry is convinced competition in Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda is ideal preparation for a future career as a professional sports car driver.

"I've pretty much only driven formula cars until Prototype Lites," McMurry said. "The big thing was just driving a car that's a little bit heavier and one that has a lot more downforce. That's a big, big jump from USF2000. It has downforce, but not a lot. So just getting used to driving a car like that where you're going through a high-downforce turn, you can't really feel that there's a lot of grip there, but you just have to know that there is and trust that there is and go faster because when you go faster, it usually works better with downforce.

"Also with Prototype Lites, it's in the IMSA paddock with the TUDOR series, so you get to meet a lot of people who are involved at a high level of the sport. I met Dyson guys and Greaves in the IMSA paddock. And also working with Performance Tech because they also are a PC (Prototype Challenge) team. So besides getting to drive their PC car, you also get to work with a team and crew that has worked around that type of car and I guess has a little bit different kind of mentality and feel to them. Those would be the big ways it has prepared me."

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