Actor and racer Patrick Dempsey announced today that American factory Porsche driver Patrick Long will join the Dempsey/Del Piero Racing team to co-drive the squad’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at the Le Mans 24 hours next month.
Long was asked by team principal and lead driver Michael Avenatti to take his place in the GTE-AM class Le Mans entry after he established that he would instead have to focus on pending non-racing business commitments. Avenatti gave his seat to Long but will remain for the balance of this year’s American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season in the GT Challenge (GTC) class.
Dempsey sympathized with Avenatti’s situation and said he was happy that he had been able to secure Long and that his experience would be a valuable boost for the team.
“Just returning to Le Mans is fantastic in itself but having a driver the caliber of Patrick Long join our team is practically a dream come true,” said Dempsey, who made his debut at Le Mans in 2009. “We have to thank Michael too for making the selfless decision of asking Patrick Long to take his seat instead of making his first start at Le Mans. I know how hard it is to balance a busy professional schedule with racing, and sometimes you have to make a tough choice, but at least it was a little easier knowing that Patrick was still available.”
Avenatti and Dempsey are lead drivers and team principals in the two-car team in the ALMS where Avenatti partners with Andrew Davis and Dempsey co-drives with Andy Lally.
“It was a tough decision to postpone my Le Mans debut for a year but I need to concentrate on a few critical business matters, including Tully’s and the company’s tremendous momentum,” Avenatti said. “Amazingly, Patrick Long was still available, I asked him if he could fill the seat with Porsche’s blessing, and he agreed. I am very excited for the team and our chances at Le Mans next month and I expect to be back for many years to come.”
Long is the only American factory Porsche driver and recognized as one of the most talented sportscar drivers of his generation. His numerous championships and race wins include a pair of GT class victories at Le Mans in 2004 and 2007 as well as claiming the GT class pole in 2008 with what was at the time the class track record.
Long said that he welcomed the opportunity to race with the team at Le Mans and that he hopes to be able to repay Avenatti’s offer with a competitive drive at the La Sarthe circuit.
“I always look forward to Le Mans but going there this time with Patrick Dempsey and Dempsey Del Piero Racing is very exciting,” said Long, who is now in his 10th consecutive year as a factory Porsche driver. “I have watched this team quickly emerge as contenders in just its first season in ALMS GTC and I have no doubt we will have a fully competitive car for Le Mans. Of course, I wouldn’t even be in the car if Michael Avenatti wouldn’t have had to step out of the ride and we are going to do everything we can to bring home a victory for him and everybody at Dempsey Del Piero Racing.”
Dempsey, Long and Foster were in Italy last week testing the team’s Porsche at the Monza circuit. Foster co-drove with Dempsey in their 2009 Le Mans debuts where they were the anchor duo in a ninth place GT2 class finish in an AF Corse Ferrari F430. This year the Dempsey/Del Piero Racing Le Mans entry is being fielded in a partnership with the experienced and Proton Competition team.
“We are pleased both with the progress of our ALMS program as well the chance to return to Le Mans,” concluded Foster. “I share Michael’s disappointment with his business getting in the way of his passion but understand fully his predicament. Of course, we are pleased that Porsche and Pat Long have come to our aid in the final hour as the Le Mans Test Day approaches. Pat has so much experience in these cars I know he will help get the best out of the team, Patrick and myself.” By James Foreman