Reigning IMSA GT Daytona champion Matt McMurry switched to Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS this year, joining Compass Racing to team up with Rodrigo Sales and, for this weekend’s event, touring car champion Michael di Meo.
Despite both team and driver being new to the series, McMurry is applying the experience of his title-winning season aboard the Acura NSX GT3 Evo for Compass Racing’s debut campaign with the car in 2021. The team is also competing in IMSA GTD.
In this Pirelli Paddock Pass Q&A, McMurry looks ahead to round three of the season at VIR and describes the “bigger role” his HPD factory junior status brings to the team.
Compass had a couple of challenging rounds at Sonoma and COTA. What’s the mood heading into round three at VIR?
“I’m excited for this weekend. Mario [Farnbacher] and myself did really well last year at Meyer Shank Racing with the same car. I know the track and the car well at that track.
“And I think the team has continued to improve a lot over the season. It’s been a bit of a rough start, but I think they showed at Mid-Ohio in IMSA that they’ve got a lot of the kinks sorted out and are ready to fight.
“In the points championship, I’m not sure how much we can come back from the start that we’ve had. But we can just still go for wins at every race. I think that could be the goal for the rest of the season: just win or nothing!
“We’re not really concerned about managing our way through points at this point. Just trying to bring home as many podiums as we can.”
What makes VIR a suitable track for the Acura NSX GT3 Evo?
“It’s a pretty varied track. It’s got some of everything: the hairpin, high-speed, camber and off-camber. There’s all kinds of stuff. The parts that really suit the NSX are all the high-speed sections.
“Our car is pretty strong in the high-speed corners, and I definitely remember having an advantage on other cars through the esses last year and the last two corners.
“I think we’re pretty strong there. So we should be coming in with basically the same setup that was on MSR last year. We’ll have a really solid base to start with and just continue improving it.
“It’s a track that me and the team are more familiar with. Sonoma was my first race driving there. It’s no excuse, but it helps to have a little bit more experience behind it, especially with the setup having MSR basically developing that for several years.
“If we can just keep going off that, it could be a big help.”
How have you found the switch from IMSA GT Daytona to GTWC America?
“I’ve driven on Pirellis in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, but that was a few years ago and they’ve made some big changes on the tires since then.
“It’s a big improvement, for sure. At Sonoma the tires were pretty heat sensitive. That might have been the track some too, but you really have to keep on top of how much wear you’re putting on the tires.
“Compared to the Michelins [used in IMSA], I think they didn’t fall off as much. In terms of competition in general, it’s been good.
“You don’t have the car count that IMSA has, but the field is still pretty strong all the way through. There is definitely plenty of competition.”
What does your HPD factory junior driver status entail, and what role does it give you within the Compass Racing customer team?
“I think the main part is the support. You’re high up on the list when there’s a seat available in an NSX. You have their support to get into that, and just extra support from all the engineers there.
“I have more responsibility and I’m expected to lead a bit more. When you’re the lead Honda guy on the team, you’re expected to know the car and hope the team makes the best out of the car that they can.
“I like that part of it, for sure. It’s a new challenge, rather than just going driving.
“You’re having a bigger role in the team, in general, to help them and the co-drivers get up top speed with the car.”
Can we expect to see you racing in Europe any time soon, perhaps adding a fourth 24 Hours of Le Mans appearance to your resume?
“No plans right now. Just the GT World Challenge America here. I haven’t really had a lot of talks about Le Mans this year. It’s something I’m always interested in.
“If I can find a good ride then I’m always down to go to Le Mans again. It’s my favorite track and race. It has to be the right team, right co-drivers. All that stuff.”
Considering VIR is a good track for the Acura, do you feel some Pro-Am or outright silverware in within reach this weekend?
“I think it’s doable and expected. I think the team’s got all the kinks sorted out and I think myself and Michael will be able to perform how we need to. The team will as well.
“I think we’ll be able to do something good. We definitely have a chance for the podium.”