The build-up to this week’s official launch of Acura’s entry for the new top-tier IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship class has featured the tireless efforts of countless people at Honda Performance Development (HPD), not the least of whom is a familiar name in IMSA circles. Matt McMurry is a two-time WeatherTech Championship driver champion. He’s also a vehicle dynamics engineer at HPD. The 24-year-old has combined those talents to play an integral role in development of the Acura ARX-06 that will take on fierce competition from several other manufacturers when one of the most anticipated eras in IMSA history begins in January with the introduction of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“It really has been a dream come true to be able to help design a pinnacle-level race car like this, let alone drive it, too,” McMurry says. “Working on this project has been awesome, better than I ever imagined.”
McMurry’s background made him the ideal candidate to be in on the ground floor of the Acura/HPD effort to develop the ARX-06. Eight years ago, at age 16, he became the youngest driver to start the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the fabled race’s history — a standard maintained until a slightly younger American, Josh Pierson, eclipsed it this year.
McMurry collected back-to-back WeatherTech Championship titles in 2019 (Le Mans Prototype 2 class) and 2020 (GT Daytona), winning a total of eight races in those seasons. Along the way, he also earned an aerospace engineering degree from the University of California Irvine and landed an internship at HPD that led to his current vehicle dynamics engineering position.
Currently without a full-time WeatherTech Championship ride, McMurry has been able to immerse himself in the Acura ARX-06 project. He estimates he’s spent some 125 hours on the Honda racing simulator — “or roughly five Daytona 24s!” he adds — moving the LMDh process along before it hit the track. McMurry was there as well, joining Wayne Taylor Racing driver Ricky Taylor to turn test laps at a pair of French circuits in July.
As both a racer and engineer, McMurry has been able to seamlessly mesh the experience in both worlds — and expedite the LMDh development process along the way.
“I am looking at it through the lens of how typically a driver would provide feedback to the engineer (or team of engineers) in the process, then the engineers would make changes to the car,” McMurry explains. “With you being both driver and engineer, you can sort of cut out the middleman in the process. … Less gets lost in translation from driver to engineer when they’re one and the same!”
While undoubtedly itching to get behind the wheel of a race car in competition once more — his last WeatherTech Championship race came at Long Beach in September 2021 — McMurry derived special satisfaction from being selected to turn laps in the GTP Acura last month at the Paul Ricard and Magny-Cours circuits.
“It was fantastic and a dream come true to be the first person to take this car on track,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been working towards my whole career. It’s an honor, and I’m grateful HPD chose me to shake down our first hybrid race car. What a great car, too; it was a blast to drive!”