PATRICK’S DAY – Dempsey knows the anatomy of Porsche
Hollywood A-lister Patrick Dempsey has made a brief pit-stop in Dubai and acting was the furthest thing on his mind.
The actor is an ambassador and driver for Porsche and he was in town as part of a promotion. But we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the Gulf. Dempsey, who has been racing professionally for roughly a decade, is competing this year in the FIA World Endurance Championships (WEC) for Porsche in the LMGTE-Am class.
TV and movie veteran Dempsey is best known for his Grey’s Anatomy starring role and has a shelf-full of ‘world’s sexiest man’-type gongs, but it’s being in the cockpit of a ballistic Porsche that brings out the biggest smile. He’s a walking encyclopedia of all things motorsport, from Luna Seca to Bathurst, Spa to Silverstone.
“I’ve loved it all since I was a little kid,” Dempsey said. “It started with my father bringing home matchbox cars on Friday nights. Then came the slot cars. I’ve always loved the sport. There was something about the cars – the sound, the smell, all that stuff.”
Had it not been for that pesky international stardom he would almost certainly have raced professionally much earlier.
“I started competitively about ten years ago. Considering most guys start about five and I started in my late thirties there’s a distinct disadvantage, but I’m working hard to catch up!
“I’m getting my kids into racing. It’s good for us as a family to go and pound around. Everyone’s very competitive and wants to beat each other, in a good way.”
Dempsey’s celebrity status can prove awkward if there’s attention overload when the team is trying to get set for events.
“For me it’s a question of seat time and to be able to test away from media. The support that I’ve been given by Porsche and continue to get is remarkable. It’s a tremendous honour to be racing with Porsche.
“I’m just excited to be in the WEC. It is an opportunity to travel around the world. Certainly the focus is Le Mans. It’s great to be with everybody, it’s a small group of people and it’s a great feeling.
“We’re here (Dubai) in November so this visit is an opportunity for us to come together as a team. The drivers can really get an understanding of what it’s going to take.”
Dempsey has plenty of runs on the board. He competed in the 2014 IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship with co-driver Andrew Davis and Porsche. Dempsey had a successful ALMS GTC season in 2013, finishing third at Circuit of The Americas and earning season-best second-place finishes at Laguna Seca co-driving with Andy Lally and the season-ending race at Petit at Le Mans where they were joined by Joe Foster.
Last year also saw a successful return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans where Dempsey and Foster joined Patrick Long for a fourth-place finish in the GTE-AM class in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Dempsey and Foster first raced at Le Mans in 2009 when they anchored a ninth-place GT2 finish. The duo was also part of the driving team in a third-place GT finish in the 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona. In 2012 Dempsey and Foster co-drove to a pair of top-three podium finishes in a P2 Lola-Judd in ALMS.
Dempsey is all over every form of motorsport but can’t decide which form boasts the best drivers, be they in NASCAR, F1, rallying, V8 supercars and everything in between.
“It’s hard to say. Overall everyone now is so specialised. I think the real challenge is how someone can get in several types of cars. It’s a different mentality. You see some drivers who cross over and do quite well.”
Like Kimi Raikkonen?
“Kimi crossed over and did a lot of rallying. He’s just a racer who likes doing it. He had a top race in Bahrain the other day as well.”
Dempsey has had a host of heroes including Ayrton Senna but he reserves special praise for Sir Jackie Stewart for his tireless efforts to improve safety standards in Formula One in the days when drivers were playing a racing version of Russian Roulette when they bolted from the grid.
“There was a small group of people racing then, especially from the 1950s to the early 60s. Nearly every week they lost a driver. Once they changed the format and the speed of the cars it was the big difference. The tracks just couldn’t keep up with them before. Jackie Stewart repeatedly drew attention to safety and much of the improvement in safety was to do with him stepping up and saying ‘we need change.”
Like so many, Dempsey has a few gripes about modern F1.
“The way F1 is now it’s the start and qualifying and the development of the cars. The technology is certainly good. But unfortunately it’s a sacrifice to the competitive nature of racing.
“WEC racing is doing well because of this. GT racing is really good too. You are seeing other forms of racing that competitors and fans are getting drawn to. Look what’s happening in New Zealand and Australia with the Supercars.”
“I haven’t done Bathurst yet. I’d like to have a go at it one day. I’ve had a couple of opportunities. But I think you need proper testing. And they’re bigger and heavier on the brakes and the speed.
“It’s one of those races I‘d really love to be in. It’s super challenging, fast and there’s a great history there too – and some great drivers.”
Dempsey’s commitment to motorsport shows he’s found his perfect script.