The youngest ever Le Mans driver — 16-year-old Josh Pierson says: 'I'm feeling ready'

Le Mans News

Josh Pierson will become the youngest driver ever to start at the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend. But as the 16-year-old who started karting at the age of two says: "It's all I've ever done"

Josh Pierson

United Autosports

When Josh Pierson was born in 2006, Tom Kristensen had already won seven of his nine Le Mans victories. The only Porsche prototype he’s seen race is the 919 — which emerged when he was eight. And he enjoyed seeing Ford vs Ferrari at the cinema. Aged 13.

This weekend, the American teenager will become the youngest person ever to take the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours at the age of 16 years, three months and 25 days.

Driving the No23 LMP2 car for United Autosports, alongside Le Mans category winners Oliver Jarvis, 38 and Alex Lynn, 28, in what is often regarded as the toughest circuit race in the world, there’s plenty to intimidate a driver yet to graduate from high school.

“I’m just here to drive and do my job”

Yet Pierson is approaching the race with assured confidence. “It’s my first year driving LMP2 in a very, very competitive field,” he says. “Despite my age, I feel more like I’m just one of the drivers around here.

“Growing up I’ve always been one of the younger drivers in my category, so for me that tag is same. I’m just here to drive and do my job and I’m feeling ready.”

It’s not just youthful exuberance. He has already won his debut World Endurance Championship race last Sebring this year, driving the United Autosports LMP2 car alongside Jarvis and Paul di Resta, and was victorious in both Abu Dhabi rounds of the Asian Le Mans Series earlier in 2022.

Oliver Jarvis Paul di Resta and Josh Pierson on the podium at Sebring in 2022

Pierson won the 1000 Miles of Sebring alongside di Resta and Jarvis

United Autosports

As he says, it is all he has ever known; his racing career being longer than his memory.

“I was so young, I don’t remember it,” he says. “I was two years old when I started karting, so I don’t really remember much of my early career. My first memories in karting are when I was seven or eight, so it’s all I’ve ever done.”

Pierson has been backed by his family, and is following in the tracks of his father, Greg, an entrepreneur, who competed in amateur races with the Sports Car Club of America.

After karting, Pierson went on to race in the US F1600 and F2000 series, on a ladder up to IndyCar, but says that the slow progression to the top level, compared with instant access to WEC’s banner events, made sports car racing the obvious choice.

“WEC has been the perfect storm of things to accelerate my career”

A chance conversation with Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing and the co-owner of United Autosports, led to the opportunity to move from single-seaters.

“The choice was either to go to Indy Pro 2000 and the next step or or go to WEC and there was no question we were going to go to WEC,” he says.

“I feel being thrown to the wolves in a sense was a good thing because there’s a lot to learn here and having to do it under pressure was also I feel doubly good for me.

“Having the other drivers in the car with me, they’re able to kind of help me. Oliver and Alex are great at that. I’m able to have guys that can teach me kind of tricks of the trade, but also I’m thrown in at the top level and it was kind of the perfect storm of things to accelerate my career.

Josh Pierson cleans his No23 United Autosports LMP2 car

Getting stuck in: Pierson details his No23 car

United Autosports

His instant success has already seen him sign for a further season of LMP2 racing and he’s clearly looking to the next step, given his rapid progression so far; both with top-level LMDh Hypercars or by returning to single-seaters.

“With LMDh coming out, I’m definitely in a really good spot going forward in my career. It’s nice to get my name in the sports car world, especially with that coming out.

“It’s also nice to keep my foot in some other doors as well: in single seaters in America or possibly Formula 1. I think I’m in a really good spot right now, and I don’t think there’s anything better I could be doing.

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“It is exciting to to know what the future could hold. But for me, it’s very much focused on the present and what I can do now.”

Co-driver Jarvis told Motor Sport that he’s been impressed by how Pierson has taken this season in his stride and at the pace he’s developing as a driver.

As an amateur under 30, Pierson is currently classed as a silver driver alongside his top-level platinum team-mates.

The 16-year-old says that his success relies just as much on his approach to racing as it does on talent: “I’m still working on speed and skill but I’m a very level-headed kid. I’ve always been that way and I’m very calm under pressure. So I tend to do well in scenarios where I think most people might might crack.

“That’s something that my engineer can tie in to strategy. At Sebring, the triple stint was something that was very difficult to do and the other silver drivers weren’t going be able to do and he said, ‘Well, let’s throw you in’.”

It helped to secure victory for Pierson’s car in the LMP2 category in a remarkable WEC debut.

United Autosports car with Dunlop Bridge in the background

Pierson will beat the record for the youngest driver at Le Mans by two weeks

Thomas Fenetre / DPPI

Pierson is 14 days younger than Matt McMurray, who holds the current record for the youngest driver to start the Le Mans 24 Hours, and will be hoping to take another record on Sunday from fellow United Autosports driver Phil Hanson, who is the youngest driver to achieve a top 10 finish — in 2017, aged 17.

Despite the naked ambition, Pierson does seem content simply to be on track at Le Mans, his appreciation heightened by Audi’s Truth in 24 documentary and the Ford vs Ferrari film rather than the work of Steve McQueen.

“It is a very historic place,” he says. “There’s kind of like a heaviness that kind of hangs over the place. There’s nothing really that beats it.

“There’s some times when you’re on the track and you recognise an area and you think back to some famous moments there.

“The Porsche Curves are an easy choice for my favourite area. It’s very flowy and it’s technical and requires a lot of focus. This track in general is very difficult to drive and requires kind of everything out of you, but it’s such a cool circuit and I feel very honoured to be here to drive it.”

No23 united Autosports LMP2 car in 2022

Pierson’s No23 LMP2 car on track


It sounds ludicrous but the alternative would be sitting in a high school classroom in Portland, Oregon, along with his peers.

“It’s all online for me,” he says, doing nothing to disguise his pleasure at the situation. “I feel like I’ve learned more from travelling the world and racing than I have from from going and sitting in class.

“I’ll definitely graduate high school online. And then from there, I think the nice thing with college is I can always wait.”

With another year in LMP2 lined up and hopes of a strong run at Le Mans, there’s every chance that Pierson’s college application will be gathering dust for some time to come.