Special to Highlands Today
Patrick Dempsey is set to make his long-awaited debut in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón today at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The Hollywood star and Dempsey Racing co-owner is confirmed in the lineup for the team's Lola-Judd prototype – part of the P2 field at the American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón.
Dempsey will partner with fellow team principal Joe Foster and Jonny Cocker in Saturday's six-hour race – the third round of the ALMS championship. Dempsey Racing has a Prototype Challenge entry in the race as well.
The decision to enter the Mazda Raceway round comes after a successful shakedown and initial three-day test of the Lola-Judd on Michelin tires at Miller Motorsports Park outside Salt Lake City. Dempsey took his first laps in the prototype Friday.
"It is nothing short of an awe-inspiring experience in every respect," said Dempsey, who will be racing a prototype sports car for the first time. "It feels familiar but so much more intense - the braking, the acceleration, cornering and power, it is all on a much more dynamic level than the GT cars I have driven. It's an amazing machine and it is incredible to even have the opportunity to race in a car like this at this level, and what better track to start with than Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. This race will really be a continuation of our learning and testing process only this time in front of a bigger crowd. We should be able to accomplish much more development and familiarization during an endurance race."
Dempsey and Foster in March announced Dempsey Racing's move into P2 for a partial ALMS season in 2012. The team's plans call for a full championship run in 2013 with an entry to the Le Mans 24 Hours in the near future, as well.
"There are have been a lot of adventures over the last few months getting the program together," Foster said. "Patrick and I are very excited. We knew long-term – having a great time at Le Mans in 2009 – that Patrick wanted to go back with his team and his own car at some point. So it's been several years that we've been trying to get this program together and it's finally starting to break ground and break cover."
Foster added that the biggest challenge is running a new car like the Lola-Judd is getting to know it. "It's a pretty tried and true package – which we did on purpose," he continued. "There' s really nothing groundbreaking. But it's on the high end of the class in terms of the technology."
Dempsey Racing is in rare company by entering cars in two ALMS classes. Henri Richard, Duncan Ende and Ryan Lewis will drive the team's PC car – an ORECA FLM09 also on Michelin tires. Two other teams have cars in multiple ALMS classes: Muscle Milk Pickett Racing (P1 and PC) and Lotus Alex Job Racing (GT and GT Challenge)
The American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón is set for 4:30 p.m today from the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. ESPN2 airs the race at 5 p.m. on Sunday.