Patrick Dempsey might be Grey’s Anatomy’s ‘Dr. McDreamy,’ but the Hollywood star’s dream has always been to be a racing driver. After taking on the grueling Le Mans 24 Hour race, he drove in the Porsche Supercup, supporting the Formula One German Grand Prix last weekend. Here’s his take on the joy of racing.
When did your fascination for motorsports begin?
I’ve always been interested in cars. When I was very young, my father bought me little Matchbox cars and we always watched the Indianapolis 500 together or listened to it on the radio. From an early age all I was interested in was racing.
What’s the thrill for you?
That it’s a complete challenge. You’re totally going out of your comfort zone. It’s also the fact that the progress you make in every single race can suddenly represent a big leap forward, bringing the ultimate goal of winning that little bit closer. Racing is also a very technical discipline, but I find the personal and emotional demands that it places are huge – you can get addicted to it.
What goes through your mind in the car at the start and in the race?
A lot of tension before the race, but I've learned, with the help of some very qualified people, to focus on the bigger picture. You know everything have to do, what you’ve learned as a team and what you’ve planned and it’s about visualizing that. The moments before the start are pretty nerve-wracking, but still beautiful. In the race itself the emotion and tension are similar, but everything settles down a bit. Then it’s a matter of discipline and concentration; not worrying about what’s happening around you but focusing on your own job. Actually, the job in the car is even easier than all the trappings – the arrival, PR and media work. I’m a lot more relaxed inside the car than outside.
In racing we know you best for competing at Le Mans, which you’ve done in Porsches for the past couple of years. What’s the difference between that and sprint racing like the Porsche SuperCup?
I’ve only done a few sprint races in my career, so this is a new step. In endurance racing it’s always been about getting the most out of the car during my stint but also about not overwhelming the car, so that my teammates had the chance to get it to the finish. The Supercup will be on the limit from start to finish.
Is Hockenheim your first race on a European F1 circuit?
First race, yes. I’ve tested for the Supercup there and also at Monza for Le Mans. In the US I've been on the old F1 track at Watkins Glen, which is still like it was in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I’ve raced there a lot.
What do you expect from this weekend? What are you most looking forward to?
Finishing the race wouldn’t be too bad, that would be an achievement. The competition in the Supercup is amazingly strong. I want to do well but in the end as long as I know that I did my best, that I got the out of the team and the car and drove a faultless race, then I'll be happy.
UPDATE: Dempsey finished the Porsche SuperCup race in 23rd place.