Matt McMurry

Written by Amanda Kippert Category: Spotlight Issue: November 2014
Group Free

This is highly ironic given that McMurry, 16, not only represents the key demographic for such eye-candy action flicks, but is also a professional race car driver who just set a world record this past summer. McMurry was the youngest competitor ever to start and finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France, breaking the record previously set by Pedro Rodriguez, who finished Le Mans at age 17 back in 1959. Want some more irony? McMurry, currently in his junior year at Brophy College Preparatory, doesn’t even own a car yet. Vin Diesel weeps.

At age 12, you were the youngest graduate of the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Did that inspire you to race in Le Mans?
I couldn’t reach the pedals on an actual race car, so I was just racing go-karts. At 13, I could reach the pedals and started doing actual races. In 7th grade, they had this school project at the beginning of the year where they had you introduce yourself and they said [to] put one thing you wanted to do before you graduated high school. So I just put that I wanted to race in Le Mans. I wasn’t serious at first, but then I decided to actually do it.

Le Mans started out OK until it began raining, right?
As soon as I got in the car, it started to rain and we spun out because we were still on slick tires – they don’t have grooves in them like normal cars – and you don’t have any grip. The water just grabs you and does what it wants with you. The track is 8 miles long – I had to putter around the entire track to get back around and put rain tires on.

You raced in the No. 42 Caterham Racing Zytek-Nissan prototype. Will you be able to borrow it to go to prom?
They’d have to ship it from England. That’d be pretty cool. I wish I could do that.

Does the danger of this sport ever get in your head?
It’s best to not think about it because if you’re thinking about it while you’re driving, you’d either go really slowly or you wouldn’t be focused on what you’re doing, which would make it easier to make a mistake and possibly crash. I got up to 192 miles per hour during Le Mans. At one point, I was passing a Ferrari on one of the straightaways that had a couple kinks in it, and I was going to go on the inside and he didn’t see me, so he pushed me off the track and I hit the curb and went up into the air. That was pretty scary.

Off the race track, what kind of car do you drive?
I got my driver’s license six months ago. The tester only commented on one thing that seemed bad. He said that I made a right turn on a green light and that I slowed down too much when I did that. I don’t have my own car yet. I just use my parents’ cars. Last year, I just got dropped off at school.

What is your ultimate dream car?
Probably a Pagani Zonda. [A $2.8 million, 800-horsepower Italian sports car with a V12 engine]

Your dad, Chris McMurry, has an extensive racing résumé and raced in two previous Le Mans. How did it feel to have him there when you set this amazing record?
It was cool.