History was made Sunday at Fuji Speedway, with Dempsey Proton Racing breaking through for GTE-Am class victory, marking the first career sports car win for Hollywood actor/racer Patrick Dempsey.
AF Corse’s Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander, meanwhile, took AF Corse and Ferrari to the class win in GTE-Pro in the rain-soaked sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Dempsey, who jumped into the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR for the closing 20 minutes to meet his minimum drive time, held off the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Paul Dalla Lana by 17.10 seconds at the end.
The German squad had a dominant run, with Dempsey completing the early rain-soaked stages after taking over from Patrick Long during the 40-minute full-course caution period, which the race started under.
It was, however, Marco Seefried that took the No. 77 Porsche to the class lead in the third hour and bridged out a one-lap advantage as part of a quadruple-stint on the same set of Michelin intermediates.
The No. 98 Aston Martin of Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, which served a late-race penalty, was second, with the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari completing the class podium.
The win was Dempsey’s first in his 10-year racing career and came on the heels of a podium finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and pole position at COTA for he and co-drivers Long and Seefried.
In GTE-Pro, defending class champions Bruni and Vilander broke a four-race winless streak, following a battle with the pair of factory Porsche 911 RSRs.
A decision by Vilander, who drove a marathon three-hour opening stint, to switch from intermediates to slicks, however, proved to be the key, with Bruni taking the lead and eventual class win.
Bruni crossed the line one lap ahead of the No. 92 Porsche Team Manthey entry of Patrick Pilet, who enjoyed a hard-fought battle with the sister No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari of James Calado.
Calado and co-driver Davide Rigon settled for third in class, with class championship leader Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen coming home fourth.
RESULTS: Six Hours of Fuji