Dempsey Does Le Mans (UPDATED)

This may come as a surprise to Grey’s Anatomy fans but Patrick Dempsey, also known as Dr. Derek Shepherd or “McDreamy” on the ABC drama, is an avid race car driver. He’s a regular in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series in a GT class Mazda RX-8. This weekend, Dempsey will take a step up in the world of motorsports as he will drive in the greatest of all sports car races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Dempsey has been entered in the GT2 class in this year’s race. He’ll be driving the #81 Ferrari F430 entered by Advanced Engineering – Team Seattle. Dempsey won’t be driving alone. His teammates will be his regular Grand-Am co-driver Joe Foster and Team Seattle owner Don Kitch Jr. As a part of their effort, Team Seattle will be raising money for Seattle Children’s Hospital and France’s France’s Mecenat Chirurgie Cardiaque (a children’s cardiac hospital). While Team Seattle and its drivers are Le Mans rookies, AF Corse (who are operating as Advanced Engineering) are Le Mans regulars. This guarantees the new kids on the block will have quality equipment for the race. Experience (or rather their lack of experience) will keep the #81 team from the race win.

Dempsey isn’t new to sports car racing. He started running in Grand-Am in 2007 when he drove for the #40 HyperSport GT team. He ran one race in 2007, five more in 2008 and has run three of four races so far this season. Dempsey’s racing ambition isn’t limited to just driving. He is the co-owner of Vision Racing, an IndyCar team also owned by ex-Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Tony George. He also bought the HyperSport Racing team he raced for in 2007 and 2008. It’s contesting the 2009 Rolex Sports Car Series under the name Dempsey Racing.

After Wednesday’s free practice session, the Team Seattle car has some work to do. Patrick Dempsey did the fastest lap for the #81 team but it was 14th fastest of 17 cars in GT2 and good for 45th overall. They were 18.21 seconds off the class leading Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 911, running a 4:26.514. Fortunately for the Team Seattle drivers, the practice session was mostly wet which put the drivers out of their comfort zone. With tomorrow qualifying sessions forecasted to be dry, expect the team to pick up the pace considerably.

Quick Guide to the 24 Hours of Le Mans
As the name implies, the race runs for 24 hours continuously where the winner is the team to complete the most laps. There are 55 cars that will start the race but far fewer will see the chequered flag. The field is divided between four different categories of cars: LMP1, LMP2, GT1, and GT2. The Le Mans Prototype (LMP) categories are filled with purpose built race cars that have no basis on real world designs. The Grand Touring (GT) categories are based on actual road cars. The GT1 cars are more racing car based than their GT2 cousins. The GT1 cars are allowed many modifications to make them far faster than the standard road car. The GT2 cars are far more similar to the road cars as they are allowed to make fewer modifications.

UPDATE: Joe Foster was the driver that set the fastest time for the #81 team. By the time Dempsey had taken the wheel, the conditions had deteriorated to the point that he couldn’t match his teammate’s time.

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