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Dempsey Heads To Le Mans In His New Car

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 19 2013

Patrick Dempsey and his co-drivers will be behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 GT3 RS this weekend at Le Mans.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Patrick Dempsey sounded kind of emotional last September as he talked about his team taking it’s last ride in a Mazda RX-8 GT. For good reason: His Dempsey Racing team had raced nothing but Mazda’s since forming five years before.

But any tears shed about having to move on for the 2013 season have been dried to dust. Dempsey/Del Piero Racing – with Dempsey, Joe Foster and Patrick Long driving – will take to French country roads near Le Mans this weekend more than happy to be competing a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the GTE Am division.

“My first car was a 1963 356 Porsche convertible that I still have,” Dempsey said during a teleconference this week,  ”I just love the brand and what it represents,and now to be able to represent Porsche here at Le Mans in the RSR is such a tremendous honor.”

Le Mans will not be the first race for which Dempsey/Del Piero Racing (Dempsey is now partnering with soccer star Allesandro Del Piero) has fielded an RS. It has been competing in the iconic 911s since the beginning of the American Le Mans Series season. In the season-0pening race at Sebring, one of the team’s GT3s – with Andy Lally driving – won the pole in the GTC class.

In the race the next day, the Dempsey/Del Piero No. 27 Tully’s GT3 (driven by Dempsey, Lally and Joe Foster) came home in sixth place. One spot back was the team’s No. 10 Tully’s GT3 (drivin by Michael Avenatti, Andrew Davis and Bob Faieta).

The next time out, in Long Beach, the No. 27 911 again finished sixth with Dempsey and Foster driving.

Apparently, switching from front-engine, rotrary engines to the rear-mounted flat-sixes of the RS has been challenging, successful and, Dempsey said, quite pleasing from the historical aspect.

“It’s been an absolute joy to drive the Porsche,” Dempsey, perhaps better known in America as a Hollywood actor,

Patrick Dempsey is getting some professional help from Patrick Long this weekend.

said from Le Mans. “It is a blast. I love it so much. And it’s stepped up my game. It’s forced me tostep up because what the brand represents andwhat the car represents, it’s won more races thananybody else here. It’s the 50th year for them, and to be next to a Porsche and to be driving aPorsche, it’s a driver’s car, it’s a tough car to drive but once you learn how to sort of go with it, it isreally rewarding. It’s just — I’m having so muchfun. I really love it.”

Bringing Long – America’s only Porsche factory driver and a two-time Le Mans class winner – onto the team has been an incalculable aid to the effort at the beautiful but treacherous Circuit de la Sarthe.

“Patrick has been someone I’ve known,” Dempsey said. “My first encounter here at Le Mans five years ago, meeting him on the plane and watching him race, he’s such a great man on and off the track, and he’s been so really supportive in getting with his understanding of the car and how to get us faster, it’s – you know, I can’t stop smiling, and I want to get in the car. That’s the thing. I love being in the car, and our test was really good. It challenges you in the right way.”

Also aiding the effort is the Dempsey/Del Piero partnership with Proton Competition, a German team with a history of preparing and racing Porsches.

“I mean, the Proton guys are obviously very, very skilled and experienced with the Porsche,” Foster said. “I think at this level when you’re transitioning from another manufacturer to a car like the Porsche, it’s important to know what you know and also know what you don’t know and bring in the experts and make sure that you get the best information, because at this level there’s not the time or the funds or the logistical bandwidth to figure it out.”

The temptation by those who do not follow sports car racing might be to label Dempsey a wealthy actor who is dabbling with racing for reasons of ego or to edge the hip-o-meter up a level or two.

Long says that’s not the case.

“He definitely is underrated,” Long said of Dempsey, who has race five full seasons in professional sports care series like Rolex Grand-Am and American Le Mans. “I’ve watched him and Joe partner up and go very seriously at racing a little bit from a distance. I got to meet Patrick, ironically, the first time he came over here to Le Mans in 2005 and since then we’ve kept in touch. Working along side him has certainly been a different experience. He’s a very intense competitor, very focused, but what I underestimated is his fitness.

“We went testing in Misano, and the team was worn out. They were looking at me, I’ve run with them previously over here in Europe, and they were like, we’re out of tires, we’re out of fuel, and I’m like, this guy still wants to drive and he’s here to put the numbers up and not just show up and look the part. It’s been a tremendous eye-opener for me, and it’s made my job easier.

“He’s very analytical.We do a lot of work on the data, talk a lot about the style. We’ve had Joe as a great teammate and partner, but with this RSR it’s new to both of them, so it’s been an has been an honor to sort of share what I know about this car after making it my office for the past decade. So it’s a special 10th Le Mans for me.”

It is more than special for Dempsey. It is an event that requires an invitation for race organizers and Dempsey Del Piero was one of those teams which got invited.

The race and the circuit and the history are unmatched.

“It means everything to us,” he said, “and it’s humbling, it’s exciting, it’s inspirational, and it’s so moving to be a part of this event. It’s a dream come true to come back here.”

FOX Sports’ SPEED and SPEED.com are set for 25 hours of live and continuous multi-platform coverage from this year’s 81st running of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Pre-race activities start Saturday, June 22 at 8:30 a.m. ET/5:30 a.m. PT, with the green flag waving at 9 a.m. ET/6 a.m. PT

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 19 2013
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