On the final day of preparations before the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, Dempsey-Proton Racing’s most famous team member took five minutes aside to discuss the appeal and preparations ahead of the big race. Best known for his roles in Grey’s Anatomy, Sweet Home Alabama and Made of Honor, Patrick Dempsey has successfully made the transition from heart throb to respected racing driver.
Dempsey shares his Porsche 911 RSR with factory driver Patrick Long and Marco Seefried, with whom he is looking not only to LM GTE Am victory at Le Mans, but alongside Long, the GTE Am World Endurance Championship title too.
Patrick started by telling us how a racing driver keeps busy between rounds of the FIA WEC:
“We’ve been pretty busy actually and I have been following Patrick Long’s lead with the driver coaching. We try to get into something every week. One week it was a shifter kart, one week a Sprint car, there was a rally and the GT America so we are doing something every week to keep trained up. Of course there is the physical training, the cardio and things like that to stay ready and active. Really being very active so we are competitive when we need to be. “
Do you find your approach, mentally and physically has to be different with the two ‘sprint’ races at Silverstone and Spa compared to the race at Le Mans?
“In some ways certainly. I started the season this year with the Rolex 24 at Daytona so I got a 24 hour race under my belt and got an idea of how to pace myself. Though you can’t compare Daytona to Le Mans at all. It’s so different in many ways. In the WEC there are six hour races so already the stint is a bit longer than we are used to in the states. So all in all I think we are building and will hopefully peak at the right time.
“It’s definitely the challenge in the morning when you realise the sun is up and there is still a long way to go. That’s the challenge we will be working on. “
Over the last couple of days we have been concentrating on qualifying, how has it been going for you guys?
“It’s been very good. We just let Patrick worry about the qualifying because in this format it’s just the one driver who has to worry about that. In the WEC it’s both drivers combined times so its slightly different so I just concentrated on looking at the data, chipping away at it until last session was very good and very positive.
We changed the setup on the car which made it a lot more enjoyable to drive so I think we were making good gains and are feeling very good about the start of the race.”
When you were a kid growing up in the states, was it always a dream to come and compete at Le Mans?
“I think as a kid you are attracted to cars and sounds and things like that. It was such a far off dream at that point to think of racing at all but the older I got, I got more involved in motorsports and that really opened up the door for the dream to possibly become reality. My first time here as a fan really ignited that, when I was in my thirties. Now I’m in my forties and coming back for the fourth time is remarkable.
“It’s really special to be able to live out my dream. It’s a lot of work and commitment and sacrifice but it’s been transformative on so many levels. It’s an honor to be here with Porsche and their rich history and TAG and all the other sponsors which make this possible. Then there is the great support from the team and from Porsche which helps to develop me as a driver so it’s nice to have that feeling of team work. It’s really special.
“To be in the car and you are really focused on that moment in time, I think is a great metaphor for life and what we all should be focused on.”
So for you, just give me an insight into the emotions and adrenaline which rush through you when you race on such an iconic circuit.
“It becomes really calm when it’s going well. I think the thing is that you aggressive in focus but you are relaxed and confident and you feel that you are right where you need to be and you are hitting your marks. There is a great sense of awareness of everything around you.
“I think there was a great moment in second quali yesterday when I was with a slower Am car and I had a factory GT car behind me. We worked together to get around the traffic and I followed him, I don’t know who was in the car but I picked up a lot of braking points and lines through that. I really enjoyed myself. It was great to be running that close and running down the Mulsanne so quickly, working together and communicating.
“I believe that dialog is so fantastic and what I enjoy the most. “
Its Friday afternoon, on the eve of the race. What are your thought processes and emotions going into tomorrow and the countdown to the three o’clock start?
“I think its just being present and enjoying the entire experience. Its a long week with such pageantry and ritual and tradition. You really want to be able to experience it in a way which, as a fan and as a participant in all of that and be present. In the car you don’t want to get all caught up in all of it and try to maintain an even keel emotionally and enjoy the experience.
“We are still working, I was just looking at the data before coming over here to talk to you. Looking at where we can improve and the times, just enjoying the weather and being in the country. Just not getting too caught up and being balanced.”
Patrick Dempsey and his Dempsey-Proton Racing team mates start the 83rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 45th place, 3rd in the LM GTE Am class when the race gets under way at 1500 local time on Saturday.