American Le Mans Series Media Conference
Topics: American Le Mans Series, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Dempsey-Del Piero Racing
June 18, 2013
NATE SIEBENS: Thank you very much, and thank you to everybody for joining us on the call here from various locations all over the world. Today we're honored to be joined by the only all‑American driver lineup competing in the 90th anniversary of the 24 hours of LeMans this coming Saturday and Sunday. Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster and Patrick Long, who are co‑driving the No.77 Dempsey DelPiero‑Proton Porsche 911 GT 3 RSR in the GTE Am class.
Patrick Dempsey is participating in his second 24 hours of LeMans this year. He previously competed in 2009, finishing ninth in the GT 2 class in an AF Corse Ferrari. He is competing full‑time in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón this year, finishing second in the GTC class in the most recent ALMS race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last month in the No. 27 Tully's Coffee Porsche with co‑driver Andy Lally.
Joe Foster is Patrick Dempsey's longtime co‑driver and motorsports business partner. He is also making his second appearance at Le Mans, having also competed as part of the AF Corse lineup with Patrick Dempsey in 2009.
Porsche factory driver Patrick Long is a two‑time GT class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a five‑time champion of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. This year he is driving full‑time in the GrandAm Rolex Sports Car Series with Park Place Motorsports and the American Le Mans Series with CORE Autosport.
Let's open with comments from Patrick Dempsey. Patrick, thanks for joining us today. Can you just put into words what racing at Le Mans means to you and your team and how special it is for yours to be the only all‑American driver lineup?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Well, it's an incredible honor to be over here, to be invited to race in this event, and I think anybody who's a road racer wants to race here. Having done it in the past and coming back and doing it with an all‑American driver lineup with Patrick Long and Joe Foster with a great team at Proton‑Dempsey‑DelPiero, it's a tremendous honor. It means everything to us, and it's humbling, it's exciting, it's inspirational, and it's so moving to be a part of this event. It's a dream come true to come back here.
NATE SIEBENS: Thank you, Patrick. Let's go on to Joe Foster. Joe, Dempsey‑DelPiero Racing as I mentioned a few minutes ago very nearly won the ALMS race at Mazda Raceway last month. Can you just talk about maybe what kind of momentum that provides to the team and a little bit about how the team has meshed with the German Proton competition team who you've partnered with on this effort?
JOE FOSTER: Well, I think definitely the program this year has taken a step up in terms of our relationship with Porsche and ALMS and at Le Mans. We obviously had a pole position and both cars led for quite a while at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Patrick did a fantastic job early in the race coming back from two laps down and it gave Andy a chance to win. We actually started that last lap in the lead and actually got helped off the road by a prototype.
But it's been a great year, and the form that Patrick Long showed at the Le Mans test day and the 77 car that we've partnered with Proton on is also really encouraging, so we've definitely taken a step up in terms of the competitive level of the team this year.
NATE SIEBENS: Thank you, Joe. Let's go to Patrick Long. Patrick, you were somewhat of a late addition to the driver lineup, replacing team principal Michael Avenatti, who was unable to compete due to several non‑racing business commitments. That being said, you got up to speed pretty quickly at the Le Mans test on June 9th, where you ran the third fastest lap. You've obviously been part of winning lineups at Le Mans before. How would you assess this team's chances for success?
PATRICK LONG: Yeah, it's been great so far. You know, initially when I showed up to Misano I didn't know quite what to expect. I got drafted in pretty late, and jumped in the car, found a good baseline. The team that we have linked up with in partnership is Proton‑Feldmayer, and these guys really know what they're doing. Once Patrick and Joe got in the car and picked up the RSR really quickly, I started to feel really positive about our chances, and that was sort of capped off by the test that we just had two weeks ago.
That was one timed lap that we were able to get because of all the rain, and it was good enough for a third and top of the class other than the two Aston Martins, who were sort of a few seconds out in front of everybody. I'm really confident, we're having a lot of fun but we're working hard in between, and that's what it's all about. These guys know how to balance the two, and we're really, really confident that we can get up on the podium.
Q. I had two questions, one for Patrick Dempsey, one for Patrick Long. Patrick Dempsey, I know that you've developed a friendship with Jimmie Johnson, he's provided some racing tips and such for you. I was wondering if you still talk to him on a regular basis and what he thinks about you racing in Le Mans this year.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: No, I haven't spoken to him in a while. Our schedules are so busy at the moment. But if you stumble into him, have him call me. It would be great to talk to him. It would be great for these guys to come over here and do this event, too. I think he would probably really enjoy it.
Q. Patrick Long, what do you see in Patrick Dempsey as a driver, and I know that obviously he's got another career that people know him for, but how would you assess him as a driver and perhaps is he underrated because of the fact that this isn't kind of what he's most well‑known for.
PATRICK LONG: Yeah, no, he definitely is underrated. I've watched him and Joe partner up and go very seriously at racing a little bit from a distance. I got to meet Patrick ironically the first time he came over here to Le Mans in 2005 and since then we've kept in touch. Working alongside him has certainly been a different experience. He's a very intense competitor, very focused, but what I underestimated is his fitness. We went testing in Misano, and the team was worn out. They were looking at me, I've run with them previously over here in Europe, and they were like, we're out of tires, we're out of fuel, and I'm like, this guy still wants to drive and he's here to put the numbers up and not just show up and look the part.
It's been a tremendous eye‑opener for me, and it's made my job easier. He's very analytical. We do a lot of work on the data, talk a lot about the style. We've had Joe as a great teammate and partner, but with this RSR it's new to both of them, so it's been an has been an honor to sort of share what I know about this car after making it my office for the past decade. So it's a special 10th Le Mans for me.
Q. Patrick Dempsey, could you talk a little bit about the transition to Porsche this year after spending so many years with Mazda?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yeah, we had a great run with Mazda. Mazda had been incredibly supportive through my career and getting me to this level at this point in my career. It was a great pleasure working with them. It's unfortunate that the program couldn't continue. We wanted to move forward with the LMP2 program and the engine just wasn't ready for this season. We were already down the road with the documentary, so we were committed to coming, and Porsche has always been wanting to do things together and out of our obligation with Mazda we didn't want to do that until we were clean and clear with respect to that contract, and it's been an absolute joy to drive the Porsche. It is a blast. I love it so much.
My first car was a 1963 356 Porsche Convertible that I still have, so I've always had a fond ‑‑ I just love the brand and what it represents, and now to be able to represent Porsche here at Le Mans in the RSR is such a tremendous honor, and it's stepped up my game. It's forced me to step up because what the brand represents and what the car represents, it's won more races than anybody else here. It's the 50th year for them, and to be next to a Porsche and to be driving a Porsche, it's a driver's car, it's a tough car to drive, but once you learn how to sort of go with it, it is really rewarding. It's just‑‑ I'm having so much fun. I really love it.
And Patrick has been someone I've known, my first encounter here at Le Mans five years ago, meeting him on the plane and watching him race, he's such a great man on and off the track, and he's been so really supportive in getting with his understanding of the car and how to get us faster, it's‑‑ you know, I can't stop smiling, and I want to get in the car. That's the thing. I love being in the car, and our test was really good. It challenges you in the right way, and I'm really glad we had the experience last year with the LMP2 car because it helped this transition going into the RSR. I think it made a much smoother transition. A lot of things were similar in many ways. The driving style is different than a prototype and you have to get used to that, and there's still a lot of work to do. I think just looking at the data and just slowly chipping away at certain segments in practice tomorrow night and that stuff, we can improve our pace and just be consistent with that. And our mantra is fuel and tires and one lap at a time, and we'll see where we end up.
And driving over here with Joe Foster, so much sacrifice has gone into getting this program up and running, and his commitment to me and the team, it's really nice that he's here. It's really quite funny because we're in our hospitality, right, getting ready to have dinner and we're all in different corners on cell phones having this conversation and communicating. But it is the camaraderie and representing Porsche that I just truly love, and I'll stop talking now. Thank you.
Q. Question for Patrick Dempsey and Joe. Patrick, for you, having had the chance to have already been through the full Le Mans week as a driver in '09, what does it mean to have had already that experience already in the bank and how does it prepare you for that week?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Well, it really helps you to understand what the week is about because it is‑‑ from scrutineering all the way through to autograph session and the parade and the first practice and then qualifying, you really have to pace yourself and be strong mentally because you have to really be careful in how much energy you release. So I think having had the experience in '09 and now coming back here with a legitimate shot to do well, I'm really glad I had that experience, and we had a lot of seat time the last time we were here. One of our drivers was sick and Joe and I both drive I think over 10 hours each, and it was sort of like the old school version when there was just two drivers and they had to share. So there was something about that moment and that challenge that we wanted to come back and see if we could go to the next step.
To be on the podium would be a dream come true and a tremendous honor to represent Porsche and also just an all‑American driver lineup. You think of Dan Gurney when you see the champagne being sprayed; it started here when they won GT 40. So for us to do that, I think, with Patrick, who's won it twice in 10 years, being here to do it and with Joe and his commitment, and for me it would be great.
Q. And for Joe, Patrick has touched on it a little bit, but needing to make the transition from the duel program last year to now the Porsche effort this year, can you talk about how the partnership with Proton became available and what you guys have been able to do with them?
JOE FOSTER: Absolutely. I mean, the Proton guys are obviously very, very skilled and experienced with the Porsche, and I think at this level when you're transitioning from another manufacturer to a car like the Porsche, it's important to know what you know and also know what you don't know and bring in the experts and make sure that you get the best information, because at this level there's not the time or the funds or the logistical bandwidth to figure it out. You've got to make sure that you get it figured out pretty quick as regards the car.
So hence you see Andrew Davis and Andy Lally driving with us in ALMS, obviously Porsche experts, and having won WC races and won Le Mans before, it was important that we partner with a team and a driver in Patrick Long that understands the RSR and how to prepare one and how to run one and the ins and outs, so that's where the partnership came from.
And Chris Reid and everybody at Proton have really been helpful to get us up to speed operationally, as well.
Q. Patrick Long, you're kind of the new guy in the neighborhood. What are you going to draw from your NASCAR and your V8 Super Car experience to support you through this Le Mans race?
PATRICK LONG: Well, I mean, it's adapting to conditions and versatility that everybody at Le Mans is pretty used to utilizing any experience that we have in different types of cars and changing conditions, there's a lot of weather that's always sort of coming in and out at Le Mans, and of course pacing yourself through a long week as Patrick Dempsey referenced. There's certainly a pace to this week that's nothing‑‑ there's nothing else like it. For instance, the next two evenings for us, Wednesday and Thursday, is combined qualifying and practice, which is unique in itself, a lot of hours, but with that, we start at about 8:00 p.m. if I'm correct, and we go until about midnight with a small break in between the two sessions. By the time you wrap up your evening and get back to the hotel, it's 3:00 in the morning. So you certainly have to adjust to the tempo and the pace of the week and be rested for ultimately what turns out to be about a 36‑hour day because you show up here early on Saturday morning and the race doesn't start until late afternoon.
Q. This question is for Patrick Dempsey. We know your love of Europe and especially Le Mans, so I have two questions. First of all, are you looking to try to make this an annual event for yourself and the team to take part in? And secondly, if you can give us a sense of how you would like to see the team progress in the next few years. Would you say your ultimate goal would be to put together an LMP1 or Daytona prototype program?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yes, we would love to be able to do that. It's such a great event, and to be able to come back here and experience this and to improve, and the more experience you have I think the better results you can have, so yes, this is something we would love to do if we're fortunate enough to do it every year, yes.
And to expand the program, it would be great to race more in Europe. WC is a great event. We would love to be a part of that. Of course that's all contingent upon sponsors and funding it properly so you can do it correctly and to expand our program. Whether we would do it in an LMP1 car, probably not. LMP2, yes, it would be fun to go back and do that, and I do love the GT class, too. It's a very competitive series. It's very rewarding and very exciting to be a part of, and there's a lot less there in the LMP2 program that I would like to go back, and if I could test properly, see how competitive I could be.
If I can't do that I'm very, very happy with the program that we have going right now.
Q. This is for Patrick Dempsey. When you first started racing, was this one of your ultimate goals, to race at Le Mans?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Oh, yes, we would sit around the kitchen or in the trailer dreaming about when we'd go to Le Mans and getting on the podium. I think anybody who's a road racer or who loves racing wants to come to Le Mans and experience it. So this has always been a dream and a goal. So to come back here‑‑ it was a dream come true and a turning point in my life to have done it in 2009, and I haven't had a win yet, and I would love to if I could get my first win to be at Le Mans, it would just be so, so special. It would be deeply moving certainly. I know the drivers on the team can do it, it's a question of‑‑
Q. Second question is for Patrick Long. Coming in later and having different types of experience, has this created any problems for you, or how well have you adapted in the short time you've had?
PATRICK LONG: Well, I mean, in all honesty some of the surroundings are more regular for me than they are for Joe and Patrick Dempsey. The team, the race and the car, all three are something that I know pretty well. As far as getting up to speed with this program, and Patrick and Joe and the rest of the team, it's pretty seamless. It's great that we were able to test last month in Italy for a few days and really get to know each other as teammates more than just friends from the racetrack. With that, they've made me feel very well come.
We have quite an entourage here in Le Mans because we have multiple documentaries being filmed as we do our business, and so it's been just professional from the beginning to the end, and certainly the following that Patrick has here in LeMans is tough to describe. He's a big name and a known face at home in the U.S., but it would amaze some of you to see how passionate the French are for Patrick and the team and of course his TV show. With that it's a whole new experience for me out here at Le Mans.
Q. Patrick Long, with different classes in the race, what's going to be the most difficult thing for the Porsche team?
PATRICK LONG: I mean, specifically to our class, it's tough to deal with the LMP1 prototypes, the closing speeds that they come at is such a high rate of speed that sometimes you look in your mirrors and it's an empty track behind you, and literally within seconds there's cars all around you and you really have to keep your nerve and keep your eyes forward and not manually reset or mentally reset, and I think that that just comes with lots of years here and knowing the places that they're going to throw their car up inside of you, and you just have to keep pushing.
Patrick and Joe have adjusted to that very quickly. As you heard earlier on, they came here in 2009 and they were very much thrown into the deep end. So far that experience has shown to really‑‑ they've been cool customers in everything that we've gone through up until this point, and I have no concerns about the race.
The pretest here wasn't the easiest day with mixed conditions and a lot of rain, and so we didn't get a ton of track time, but both of them got right up to speed, and honestly I think we've taken a lot of the fellow competitors by surprise. A lot of guys have come up to me that I've raced against or with in the past, and they didn't have us as the favorites in the class or one of the favorites, and seeing Joe and Patrick's pace in the pretest, they've sort of adjusted their odds. That's great for the confidence of the whole program going into the race.
Q. I have a question for Patrick Dempsey and Patrick Long. Patrick Dempsey, there's been a lot of comparison with you and Steve McQueen because of your acting backgrounds and so forth. First of all, do you agree with that, or maybe is it a burden for you as you begin to build your racing career?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Well, Steve McQueen is such an iconic figure. It sometimes is a bit of a shadow. There's no way you can live up to that kind of expectation. It's such an honor to be mentioned with him, but yeah, I think for me I can't really think about that so much. I think the pale is because he's an actor and I'm an actor and we're both coming to Le Mans, and certainly Paul Newman. A lot of our documentaries is about McQueen and Newman and their passions for racing, and I think that's what we share, a real love for racing, a real love for this event, and I really want to do well. I want to do well for myself, I want to do well for the team, and it's a personal quest for me. I'm fortunate enough to be able to do it.
I was kind of the guy who was always watching it on television and finally have the opportunity to come here and do it, and I really appreciate it. I really love it, and I love the challenge of it, and I really am driven to do well. I want to have a good result here.
Q. And Patrick Long, you talk about the documentaries, the cameras, the fans and so forth that must surround your team. Does that get in the way? In the past you've been very focused and you didn't have to deal with this so much. Is this a new experience for you? Has it been in the way of your preparation for the race?
PATRICK LONG: It has been different. It's actually not been as bad as I might have expected. It has not impaired me from doing my job. There may be a few more requests in the day than normal, but when I see how much Patrick Dempsey goes through, it's minimal in comparison for what I have to do.
If I can pick up a little bit of slack and be working with the guys on the fit and finish of the car or going over some data while Patrick's handling many of his requests from the media, that's a great honor for me, and if I'm sort of involved in some of the shooting, it's a win‑win. But no, it's been well‑managed. They have a great infrastructure and experienced people that are liaising between the cameras and the production crews and us as the racers and those people between our races, and with that it's been pretty seamless.
Q. In fact, Joe Foster, you've been a partner with Patrick Dempsey for a very long time. I assume you've gotten used to this by now. How long did it take you to transition and to just get by all of the stuff that happens on the periphery of the team?
JOE FOSTER: Well, that's a good question. It's important to remember as Patrick does about what's going on on that periphery is what is providing value to the sponsors, and it's really important. So honestly, it's a good problem to have. We've worked for a lot of years, seven years now almost, with various partners, and that sort of hurricane that tends to follow us around the paddock, tornado I guess is the right term of media and fans, and honestly we are very lucky to have that because it helps provide value for the people that pay for this. So it's all good, and it wasn't hard to get used to at all.
Q. It had to take some time at the beginning; it's not normal life. Give me an anecdote or something that happened at the beginning to say, okay, this is what the new world order is for me.
JOE FOSTER: Well, I think when you discover certain things that become huge challenges that you think would be normal, like, for example, to walk from the transporter to the bathroom and back for Patrick, things like that are very difficult. Or just movement to the pit lane, the scheduling of the team and the logistics on the weekend based on the crowds and the media who justifiably want their time, you've really got to schedule yourself down to the second and plan for the amount of time it might take to walk 100 yards because it's not going to‑‑ it's something that takes time, and Patrick is very good about making sure that all the fans get their due and that the sponsors get their due, as well.
Q. Patrick Long, Porsche just announced recently that they're returning to Le Mans next year with an LMP1 car. How important is that announcement and participation for sports cars in general, and Le Mans in particular?
PATRICK LONG: Well, I think it's huge for certainly the Porschephiles of the world and people are so passionate about the brand and sports car racing in general. It's been since 1998 that we competed for an overall win here at Le Mans, so this has been long anticipated, and in some people's minds overdue. In saying that, what it takes to go up against the Audis, the Toyotas, is a huge, huge amount of money, much different than when they last competed here. I think it's great. It's very important for the sport. The rules and the technologies, everything has changed so much. These cars are much more sophisticated with alternative energy, different types of fuel, hybrid mixes. And so it's a much different game.
But I can rest assured that they'll be prepared when they come back in 2014.
Q. I just wanted to ask if it's your intention to drive in the remaining American Le Mans series races after Le Mans.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yes, it is our intention to complete the season. We want to go after a championship if we can. We've had some good results, came close to winning in the last race. It was a bit of a heartbreaker losing out on the last lap. I thought we had a breakthrough victory there.
But you know, it just inspires us, and now we have a real sense that we can compete and win in that class, and I think that class is very, very competitive, and if you can do well there, I think it's really satisfying. It's built my confidence up. Andy has been really good. He has a great understanding of the car, and Andrew and now Patrick. So I've learned a lot from these guys. They've been very, very good about giving me the information I need to get quicker in it, and it's very inspiring to be around them and racing with them.
NATE SIEBENS: With that I think we'll wrap it up for this afternoon. I'd like to thank Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster and Patrick Long for joining us as well as our friends in the media who came on to participate.
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