For longer than he’s been known as McDreamy, “Grey’s Anatomy" star Patrick Dempsey has been chasing his own dream, one that’s taken him far from the back lots of Hollywood and into the pits: becoming a world class racing driver.
When he’s not in front of the camera you can usually find him behind the wheel, competing in a variety of professional sports car racing series, not only as a driver but also a team owner.
This year Dempsey Racing made the move into the prototype ranks of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) with entries in the P2 and Prototype Challenge classes and an eye on competing in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2013.
If the team makes it, it hopes to be carrying the flag for Mazda with a new fuel efficient Skyactiv diesel motor under the engine cover of its shark-finned Lola coupe, and Dempsey and co-driver Joe Foster in the cockpit.
Fox Car Report caught up with the man who’d probably rather be called McSpeedy at the American Le Mans Series Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut to find out how life in the real fast lane is treating him.
Fox Car Report: What are you spending more time on these days, acting or racing?
Patrick Dempsey: “The last month and a half since hiatus it’s been all about the racing. Which was the goal. Running the GT program and gearing up for LMP2 next year to go to Le Mans. It’s been a good month, been very busy.”
FCR: You’re a driver, but you’re also a multi-car team owner. Which is more work?
PD: “Certainly the owner side of it. The constant anxiety of trying to raise enough money to keep everything going, and have enough money to test and develop the car properly, and where to put that money and when to hold back or not. It’s just a lot more work than I anticipated, we’re certainly deeper in the sport now, which was always part of our plan, but that’s just a fact of running a business like this.
FCR: You’re working closely with Mazda, who built it’s last rotary engine a just couple of weeks ago, are you going to miss it?
PD: “Yea, it’s really part of their heritage, part of their tradition and there’s nothing quite like the sound of a rotary engine going around a track. So it is very much an end of an era for that car right now and they’re moving over into the Skyactiv program, which is the diesel, and hopefully that goes well for them.
FCR: And for you. You’re planning to bring one to Le Mans next year and also here to the ALMS.
PD: “Yea, we hope to. That engine is being developed by SpeedSource, and we’re hoping it’s done in time for us to be able to at least get it in the car for the (12 Hours of) Sebring next year and take it on to Le Mans.”
FCR: You got started in professional racing a little later than some of your competitors did, what’s your ultimate goal as a driver?
PD: “A lot later! I think you just want to be competitive and you want to win. It’s no fun to run around the back of the pack. First it was exciting to be here and now you want to win. This is certainly the deep end of the pool and the American Le Mans Series has the finest drivers of the world competing with the most advanced technology, and it’s very challenging and very exciting. You can feel your game elevate because of that. So, I want to win. I want the team to win and be successful, and to be respected as a driver by my fellow drivers in the racing community. I think those are all things that we work towards.