Josh Pierson, the 16-year-old rookie doing double-duty in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship, is trying to learn as much as he can in his first year of sportscar racing.
In October of 2021, Pierson was completing his second season of USF2000 with 45-minute sprint races. His next outing was the 24 Hours of Daytona. That leap from junior formula and single-seater racing to the upper echelons of sportscar racing has been a big jump for the teenager, but he is happy with the progress he has made.
“My longest races coming from junior formula were 45 minutes, so to go straight into the 24 Hours of Daytona was a big jump,” Pierson said.
In addition to becoming the youngest competitor at the Rolex 24, Pierson also became the youngest driver in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
A win in the opening race of the WEC season at Sebring has been the high mark this year for Pierson. The rest of his WEC campaign has been plagued with small setbacks, including a faulty door at Spa that took away a potential podium and a tire failure at Le Mans.
The best result of his IMSA season with PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports has been a fourth-place finish, which he secured on two occasions at Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio. Pierson believes the team is close to finding the one missing ingredient that will net them a podium.
“With IMSA, we’ve just been lacking the missing piece,” he said. “We’re very close to a podium, or to a really good result. I think just a couple of misfortunes sometimes have held us back a little bit. But I think to a certain extent we make our own luck.
“We’ve been consistently quick in practice, and it just hasn’t come together in the races for us. I’m looking forward to Road America and looking forward to getting on track and hopefully there’s a result here for us,.”
Pierson’s dual IMSA and WEC campaigns also see him working alongside two very different sets of teammates. In the IMSA paddock, he shares the No. 52 ORECA with the bronze-rated – but very capable and 2020 LMP2 champion – Patrick Kelly. In the WEC, he shares his United Autosports No. 23 ORECA with Le Mans winner Oliver Jarvis and former Aston Martin factory driver Alex Lynn.
Pierson said that he has been able to bring the information and guidance he receives from Jarvis and Lynn in the WEC to his IMSA efforts.
“Oliver and Alex are two really good guys that have a lot of information for me that’s very helpful,” he said.
“Learning off of them and my driver coach Stephen Simpson, there’s a lot of information I’m able to carry over. While the cars may not be identical with all the changes that are on the WEC, I can still carry over certain things and certain techniques when it comes to driving the car.
“It does help both ways. But they are two different cars, and you have to drive them slightly different I feel, but it’s a very minute difference and I’m able to kind of carry over and continuously work on it.”
Pierson has shared the No. 52 with Kelly for his two best finishes of the year. For Road America, Kelly will return to the No. 52 while Steven Thomas will slide into the team’s sister car, the No. 11 ORECA 07.
“Patrick and I, we were working on the car at the test, and I think that we’re in a good spot so hopefully we’ll be in contention for a podium or maybe even a win here,” he said. “Pat is very quick and on his days is the best, so I that we’re in a very good spot here going into the weekend, and I’m looking forward to trying to push for a better result.”