After a hectic last few months at his day job, Patrick Dempsey arrived at Silverstone Friday afternoon jet-lagged after a whirlwind work and travel day, yet feeling excited and fortunate to start a new chapter in his racing career.
The Hollywood actor/racer came straight from his final day of the season on the set of “Grey’s Anatomy,” which was shooting in Seattle on Thursday, in order to make it for the opening day of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
“It’s been challenging because the workload has been so heavy I’ve missed Sebring and then the [Prologue] test,” Dempsey told Sportscar365. “We did the Mint 400 and a rally school but other than that, I hadn’t been in the car since Daytona.
“Just to be here, the atmosphere is amazing. We just want to get through this [weekend], get as much seat time as possible and get used to the series and enjoy it.”
Dempsey’s arrival into the FIA WEC marks a new beginning in more ways than one.
After nearly a decade of co-owning his own team, and facing the day to day challenges of keeping it afloat, he’s traded it in for a more simplified approach as a driver only.
By joining forces with Proton Competition and Porsche for his first full-season effort in the globe-trotting championship, Dempsey said he’s now able to fully focus as a driver, especially now with his filming commitments for the season being complete.
“In the past I’ve had too many things go on,” he said. “You end up making sacrifices. At this level, you have to be in the car, you have to train properly, you have to eat properly.
“It’s takes complete commitment. I want to do well and be competitive. It takes a lot more work to do that. We have the team and the resources to have the results.”
Dempsey and co-drivers Marco Seefried and Porsche factory driver Patrick Long head into the season arguably with one of the strongest lineups in the Pro-Am-enforced class.
Coupled with the fact that it’s the same team that Dempsey and Long drove for in the last two years at Le Mans, the continuity is likely to play to their strong suit.
“Patrick and I have been working a lot in the States preparing and getting everything organized and Marco has been great,” Dempsey said.
“We’ve also brought Jim [Jordan, former Dempsey Racing team strategist] on board to handle the brand stuff. It’s been good. I’m excited.
“Now we can start to race and not worry about anything else for the rest of the year.”
The eight-round championship will very much be a new experience for Dempsey, having only previously been to Le Mans and Circuit of The Americas, although several tests are planned over the course of the year, including one in Bahrain later this month.
“It’s going to be a blast,” Dempsey said. “To [race] in Europe and around the world is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a dream come true. To do it with Porsche? Are you kidding me?
“I’m really lucky and really enjoying it and I’m going to work really hard. I want to make the most of this opportunity.”
He’s also praised the FIA WEC for embracing the influx of American interest in the championship, including its recently inked live TV deal with FOX Sports.
“To certainly have American drivers over here is really important,” Dempsey said. “Hopefully that transcends into more people in America watching the races.
“The atmosphere and the tracks and the way it’s presented and how well organized it is, and the quality of the competition… It’s going to be fun.”
While this weekend’s Six Hours of Silverstone represents a massive learning curve, especially with limited track time, Dempsey is hoping to build on his experiences as the season unfolds.
“It’s really competitive and we have to make everything go right,” he said. “Because of the ranking and the quality of the drivers, you can’t make any mistakes.
“That’s the objective, to do the best we can and we’ll see where the results end up.”