Matt McMurry, a 20-year-old Phoenix, Arizona native, walks a path that few will get to experience.
As an aerospace engineering major, he may appear to be a typical student who has the same course load as any other engineering major. This means lots of time studying. However, McMurry makes up for his stationary time by being one of the fastest people on campus, reaching speeds in a car that most of us would lose consciousness at.
Whenever he isn’t studying, McMurry spends his time out on the track, racing cars domestically and internationally as he has done from a young age. He became much more serious at 14, competing in many race series including Formula Skip Barber, the U.S. F2000 Championship, Formula Bondurant, Prototype Lites and the European Le Mans Series. McMurry’s most impressive achievement in the world of racing would have to be his participation in the legendary and prestigious 24 hours at Le Mans in 2014.
McMurry’s love for cars and engineering stem from a young age. “I’m not sure when it started but I’ve been interested in technical stuff since I was little,” McMurry said. The two worlds go hand-in-hand; understanding the car helps the driver get the most out of it.
At 16, he became the youngest driver to compete in the race, breaking a record held since 2000. The race is a 24-hour endurance race in which McMurry and two other drivers rotate out, testing the consistency and willpower of drivers.
McMurry was driven to become the youngest driver to compete in the race by a school project where he had to set a goal he would accomplish before the end of his high school career. McMurry set a seemingly unachievable goal and made it into a reality. Doing so meant juggling the hectic life of an unconventional athlete and perhaps to greater difficulty, the life of a student.
The driver and student amalgam can be difficult to manage, as McMurry is not a typical student athlete.
Being a racecar driver, McMurry does not train the way other athletes do, meaning his sport of choice takes up less of his day-to-day life, but when it comes time to compete, things become much more intense and demanding.
Most of his competitors are older, more experienced and ultimately do not have to divide their time to the degree Matt does, making his competitiveness in the sport all the more impressive.
Where most student athletes at UCI have practice facilities and coaches on campus and can break up their practice and preparation, by virtue of the sport of racing, McMurry doesn’t have access to such things. When he travels to compete (often overseas), he must practice at the track he will be racing at, and work to make sure the car is running well. This, combined with the sheer distance he travels to compete, means a single competition can take McMurry out of class for up to a week at a time.
“I tell my professors that I will have to miss a week of class to go race, and they are always kind of taken aback,” he said.
Matt competes in a sport most know few specifics about, so this type of reaction is one he has become accustomed to. Racing seems simple enough: drive the car around a track really fast. But the sport holds much more in ways of preparation and strategy. Matt doesn’t just hop in a car, drive it, and everything works perfectly; both his driving and the car have to be adjusted for the best possible run.
Matt has competed in team endurance races such as the 24 hours at Le Mans, which further complicates strategy and preparation. Now multiple drivers need to be able to get the most out of the car, meaning they will have to be much more consistent than if they were the only driver. Endurance is a key for these races. The drivers endure a true physical toll, and are in danger of not only overheating but are often pushing their bodies to their limits.
Though McMurry has already made significant accomplishments for a driver of his age, he continues to make waves in the racing world. McMurry will be racing in the IMSA Weather Tech Sportscar Championship in the top class, prototype in the “Roar before the 24” at Daytona International Speedway. The Roar before the 24 is the kickoff to the racing season at Daytona, culminating in the Rolex 24 race. The prototype car McMurry will be driving, along with Tristan Vautier, is a Cadillac Daytona international prototype.
McMurry is continuing the tradition of UCI students making an impact and representing the best that the ‘Eaters have to offer.