You may know him as „Dr. McDreamy“ from the TV series Grey’s Anatomy, but his real passion is motor racing. How does a Hollywood actor end up in 24h LeMans.
The year was 1987 and young actor called Patrick Dempsey, 21 years old at the time, finished his first big movie – a romantic comedy Can’t Buy Me Love. He had a fat paycheck in his pocket, and passion for speed in his mind.
In Santa Monica, where he moved from his native state of Maine, he noticed an old sports car for sale – a 1963 Porsche 356 Convertible. He did the foolish thing and spent all his money on the car. Little did he know that he just made probably the best investment in his life.
Now, more than 30 years later, Dempsey still has his first Porsche. But today, it’s not just an old sportscar anymore. It’s a valuable, prized classic. And he’s now more than a struggling young actor with a fondness for cars. He became a top-level endurance racer. And of course, he races Porsches.
The passion for speed was there for a long time. As a boy living in Maine, Patrick loved watching cars driving by at the interstate highway and was fascinated by the exotic, European ones. Later, he saw a poster of a Porsche 911 Turbo in a friends house and became hooked.
At the same time, he was already into speed and competition – just not in the form of motor racing, but skiing. Before he got into acting, Dempsey’s big goal was to qualify into Olympics as downhill skier. And he had a chance. Maybe if things went another way, we would today know him as a famous skier.
However, Patrick ended up in Hollywood and we already know the rest. After several movie roles, his big breakthrough came with the medical show Grey’s Anatomy and the role of Dr. Derek Shepherd, nicknamed “McDreamy” for Dempsey’s handsome looks.
Then, though, the passion for speed came back. In 2004, Dempsey found himself behind the wheel of a real race car for the first time, driving in Panoz Racing Series. Gradually, he found himself more and more immersed in racing. Eventually, he became successful and even said that racing is as important as acting for him.
Initially, he drove a wide array of different cars. From Mazda RX-8 in Rolex Sports Car Series, to a race-prepped Ferrari 430 GT2 in Le Mans or an Aston Martin Vantage. In the end though, it was Porsche who lured him back.
His own team, Dempsey Proton Racing, started out with two LMP class prototypes in American LeMans series, but later moved to his beloved brand, fielding a 911 GT3 RSR (997 generation). With this car, he also achieved his biggest racing success, finishing second in class at 24h LeMans.
In the end, however, Dempsey decided that he needs more time for acting and his family, which is why he retired from racing in 2016, after more than a decade of successful career, and decided to stay only as a team owner. And as someone who got into racing at 38 years and quit being 50, he can be quite proud of his achievements.