Saturday, Feb 04

Youngest ever World Endurance Championship race winner

Saturday, Apr 09 863
Young American racer Josh Pierson made history last week by becoming the youngest-ever winner in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Pierson teamed with ex-Formula 1 racer Paul di Resta and 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner Oliver Jarvis to win the LMP2 class in the 1000 Miles of Sebring - the opening round of the FIA WEC sportscar series.

16-year-old Pierson is contesting both the FIA WEC with United Autosports and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports alongside. 

Last Friday and Saturday, Pierson raced the eight-hour WEC event and then backed that up by contesting the 12 Hours of Sebring with Jonathan Bomarito and Steven Thomas.

The victory at Sebring was the third in a row for Pierson in a United Autosport entry. He and di Resta also won the final two rounds of this year’s Asian Le Mans Series in Abu Dhabi in February.

Pierson will break more records in June when he becomes the youngest ever driver to contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Victory at Sebring

 

Josh Pierson Q&A

Q: What is it like to be on track as a 16-year-old competing against massively experienced international racing drivers?

A: “My main goal as the silver-rated driver is to be faster than the other silver-rated drivers in the other cars.
“The great thing about sportscar racing is I get to team up with some massively experienced platinum-rated drivers who have been incredibly helpful for me.
“Racing with Paul di Resta at Abu Dhabi and Sebring, then having Oliver Jarvis join us at Sebring and then Alex Lynn with me for the rest of the season – that is a great opportunity for me.
“We’re all driving the same car and I get to analyze their data, and the guys have been very helpful in teaching me what I did wrong or what I can do better. 
“It gives me an excellent opportunity to challenge myself to be quicker, but my main task as part of this team is to be faster than the other silver-rated rivals – every car has to have one silver as part of their line-up."


Q: You have a very full race schedule this year all over the world, but what do you do when you are not at the track?

A: “I’m like any normal teenager. I’ll play video games on PC with my friends when I'm home. It's a great way to unwind and escape the pressures of being at the track.
“I love snowboarding in the winter and sometimes do that with my friends or family.
“I also love clay pigeon shooting with shotguns. That has been a hobby of mine for a long time too.
“Apart from that - it’s schoolwork, working out, and spending time on the simulator. All that certainly keeps me very busy.”
 
Q: How does it feel to have three LMP2 victories in a row for United Autosports

A:
 “I don't think we had particular expectations coming into the season. Before we got started, I was just interested to see how competitive we would be. I certainly wasn’t expecting to win three races in a row.
“We now have work to do to keep the consistency throughout the season."


Q: Most of your school buddies were probably hanging out or playing video games while you were winning your first FIA WEC race. Can they relate to what you do?

A: 
“I have some friends who are interested in motorsports; they were very happy for me, but most of my friends are not familiar with motorsports at all.
“So they don’t understand the scope of what I was able to accomplish. And so, to them, it doesn't mean a lot. I think it really depends on the person.” 


Q: Your family has obviously played a big role in your career ever since you first drove a kid kart at age two – what does this early success mean for them?

A:
 “It is gratifying for me because doing the best I can is really the only way to repay them for what they have done for me.
“I know they are very happy for me, and as a family, that all motivates us to keep going and strive to do the best we can.
“That drive to win is what keeps everyone coming back.” 
 
Q: Is being a professional racing driver all you ever wanted to be?

A: 
“When you’re young, you really don’t have a scope of what you’d like to be when you ‘grow up.’
“As long as I can remember since I was really little, I have always loved racing, and it was something that I always wanted to keep doing.
“I didn't know how to pursue it professionally because I was too young. I just kept karting, and trying different types of driving and eventually, I found the right path into motorsports through the Road to Indy program.
“Finding the right people in the sport is key. Although I have been fortunate with my connections, I am most grateful for Stephen Simpson, who identified my driving style as fitting with sportscar racing and advocated for me. I was lucky this led to United Autosports in the FIA WEC and PR1 in the IMSA series.”


Q: What were your earliest memories of watching motorsport?

A: 
“I have a few memories of watching the Indy 500 when I was growing up, and we were always watching some form of single-seater open-wheel racing at home.
“I watched a lot of Formula 1 races with my dad, and I really fell in love with the sport.
“I’ve always loved McLaren, and when I was really little, their 2008 car that Lewis (Hamilton) won his first championship in is probably my favorite F1 car of all time.
“As a driver myself, my earliest memory I can recall was when I was around seven years old doing karting in Arizona; that was my first national race.”
 
Q: How demanding was doing both the eight-hour FIA WEC race and the IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring?

A:
 “It was pretty demanding, but as a driver, I am used to that. This will be the most challenging race of the year – especially for me as I was running back and forth between the two paddocks.
“At Sebring, it's hot so I was constantly drained mentally and physically. 
“We now have the two toughest races of the year done. Physically driving the cars wasn’t too tough, but it was about dealing with the heat – it was just really hot in the cars. 
“We were dealing with that while trying to keep hydrated because we were just losing water so fast. Staying hydrated is really important on a weekend like this.”


Q: The specifications for the LMP2 cars in the FIA WEC and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship are slightly different. How big a challenge was it to adapt?

A:
 “It wasn’t too difficult to adapt. The IMSA car has more downforce and more grip from the tire. I could roll through the high-speed corners quicker, and I could brake later with that extra downforce. 
“As long as I remembered that when going back to FIA WEC car, I was okay. Pretty much as soon as I drove out of the pit lane for either category, I was able to dial in pretty quickly between the two cars."


Q: What is the biggest difference between the FIA WEC and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship?

A: 
“In the LMP2 class in the WEC, there are more cars, and the level of competition is subsequently a bit tougher.
“For the whole season, we have to run the Le Mans downforce package, which is significantly less than what we can use in IMSA.
“The standard Goodyear tire we use in the WEC is also a lot harder than the Michelin we race here in the US.
“We have less grip, but also the tire lasts a lot longer, and because of that, I was able to run a triple stint of a total of 56 laps in the WEC race at Sebring.
“The pit stops are also different. In IMSA, we can refuel and change tires at the same time, but in the WEC, we have to complete the refueling before we change tires."
 
Q: What tracks are you looking forward to racing on for the first time this year?

A: 
“Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium is a big one for me and the next WEC race on my schedule. I’ve done a lap of laps around there virtually, so I’m really looking forward to getting to drive that track for real. I’ve seen a lot of great races on TV there over the years and always loved it - I can’t wait.
“The 24 Hours of Le Mans is obviously huge. It is one of the biggest races in the world, and the track is just beautiful. It’s nearly 8.5 miles around and just an amazing venue with it being half regular track and half a street circuit that goes blasting through the French countryside.
“Monza in Italy is another incredible historic circuit that will be amazing to race on.
“Going there to race is our crucial priority, but we’re going to take the opportunity to take a look around while we have the chance.
“There are going to be a lot of races in future years where all we see is the airport, the hotel, and the racetrack, so this year we’ll try to see some of the sights as well.”


Q: How important is driving these tracks on your simulator as part of your preparation for the season ahead?

A:
 “I do a lot of work on the iRacing platform, but there’s no question, nothing compares to the actual track. I prefer reality to virtual practice, but that’s not practical.
“SIM work certainly is helpful, but there are a lot of things missing.
“But It does allow me to learn new tracks before I race on them in reality."

 

Q: What were your impressions of Sebring International Raceway.

A: 
“I’ve tested here a lot in the Road to Indy at Sebring and was here last year before the USF2000 race at St. Pete, so I was already very familiar with the place.
“It is unique because it is incredibly bumpy and a real test for the car. In races like this, we're really testing all the parts and working out how long they can last. We're constantly putting tension on everything with the vibration over the bumps. 
"It's a track that has a bit of everything. It's got some high-speed corners that challenge me to commit as a driver. It's got some passing opportunities – it’s a great place to race."

 

Q: What has been the most significant difference between sportscars and the USF2000 single-seater cars you raced last year?

A: 
"The traffic is handled much like we would handle overtaking a slower car in USF2000. We’re looking for opportunities to get around the traffic. It's a game of chess, but with added complexities. We're not spending the entire race following one car, trying to figure out how to overtake them; We’re spending the race following cars in our class.
“We are trying to figure out how to overtake them, but also how to use the traffic to our advantage. So it just adds another element to the chessboard.” 

Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.

Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network. 

Contact Adam: Email  

  

 

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