Matt McMurry's column: Keeping calm and carrying on at Silverstone

Matt McMurry's column: Keeping calm and carrying on at Silverstone

Le Mans/WEC

Matt McMurry's column: Keeping calm and carrying on at Silverstone

The quest by 16-year-old American, Matt McMurry, to become the youngest driver ever in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this June took a major step last weekend. Read all about it in this latest post by the high school sophomore, who is chasing the Le Mans mark held by Formula 1 ace Ricardo Rodriguez, set June 20, 1959, at the age of 17 years and 126 days old.

I made my first visit to England and Silverstone last weekend. There were so many memorable moments from the trip. Actually, there were memorable moments every lap, and too many to recount, in round one of the European Le Mans Series, where I drove with Tom Kimber-Smith and Chris Dyson for Greaves Motorsport. Hope you enjoy my latest list:

1. Mission Accomplished: This past weekend was four years in the making. A time that has included 60+ races, 20,000 miles of seat time in all sorts of racing vehicles and 175,000 air miles. It was good to get this important step accomplished and to show a 16-year-old can run wheel to wheel in traffic with F1 drivers, Le Mans winners and other accomplished drivers. Better yet, we finished fourth overall, just 10 seconds off the podium. A very solid result.
 
2. Crash Course: My friend James Dunford, who built my website, arranged simulator time for me at Andy Priaulx’s iZone Driver Performance outfit at Silverstone. The experience was really helpful since there are only 2.5 hours of pre-race practice in ELMS, and it gets split among three drivers (just 50 minutes each). With every track being new to me, and still learning the Zytek Z11SN, the need to get up to speed quickly looms every weekend.  

By the way, iZone was really comprehensive. You can search them to see all that they do. In addition to the simulator, I tried their NeuroTracker. It works to improve mental performance. Imagine eight yellow balls on a screen. Four flash orange, then they all go back to yellow and start moving about for 30 seconds. Your job is to remember which were orange. That’s the short explanation. I found this video on YouTube that shows more about it. Cool stuff.

3. Baptism by Fire: The team elected me to start the race after Tom qualified us on the outside of the second row. As the only Silver-rated driver, the rules say I need to run 2 hours 20 minutes (3.5 fuel loads) of a 4-hour race. Oh, did I mention this was my first race in a Le Mans Prototype and the longest I’ve ever raced is 45 minutes!? As the Brits say, “Keep calm and carry on.” I did. All went well. I ran as high as third overall, and was really proud to have done so.

4. It’s Getting Real: You may know that in 2010 I set the goal of becoming the youngest driver ever at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014. For the first time in what has been a long development process, this weekend I could feel that others now believe it may very well happen. The “what are you thinking” looks have all but disappeared. It was great to see and feel the fans and the media somewhat suddenly and noticeably excited about my project!  

5. Tight Quarters: Have you ever slept in a shipping crate? I now have. It’s called Snooze Box, run by David Coulthard. They move and stack 6’ x 12’ crates-turned-into-hotel-rooms anywhere. A mobile hotel is born. In this case, the birth took place Mnext to Wellington Straight. Voilà! Just $75 a night. It makes coming and going a lot easier, too! Look it up. Hope it comes to America!

6. Firsts. It was a weekend of many firsts. First time to England. First time to Silverstone. First time racing an LMP2. First time dealing with multi-class traffic in a race. First time doing driver changes and pit stops, where seconds matter. First double stint. First time doing eight interviews in one day. First time on the NeuroTracker. And of course, first time sleeping in a container.

Email me at matt@mattmcmurry.com if you have questions you would like me to answer in a future post. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or my website. Next stop is Imola with Greaves for the second round of the ELMS season, as part of the Dyson Racing Junior Development Program.

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