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Patrick Dempsey at LeMans
Patrick Dempsey
The American actor, Patrick Dempsey is not just at Le Mans to shoot another episode of the TV Series 'Grey's Anatomy'. Patrick, alias Dr. Shepherd, is here in his role this time as a genuine race driver. He, along with Advanced Engineering team members Joe Foster and Don Kitch Jr., are here on behalf of the Humanitarian action of "Team Seattle," a team which races in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring to raise funds for the US Seattle Children's hospital. Here at Les 24 Heures du Mans the team has paired with Mecenat Chirurgie Cardiaque to raise money for disadvantaged children with rehabilitating heart conditions.

The Advanced Engineering team will be driving the Ferrari F430GT #81, which will carry the colors of the Cardiac Surgery Sponsorship and which was baptized "Racing for Children" to the track during Les 24 Heures du Mans. Dempsey's Ferrari will be one of the 55 cars taking part in the 77th edition of this famous automobile endurance race, but this team aims to use the power behind motor racing to raise funds and awareness for a good cause.

Dempsey had his first taste of the Bugatti circuit in extremely wet conditions. In a press conference, he said: "I am a real motor racing enthusiast and after my few laps of the Bugatti track in a Ferrari, I had difficulty hiding my emotion. It's a dream for me to be here and I'm fascinated by Les 24 Heures du Mans. This is hallowed grounds of motor racing and the history of this place is overwhelming."

Dempsey is a rookie at Le Mans, but not in the USA where he has raced in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Dempsey says he enjoys the camaraderie of motorsports and that he is proud to be able to redirect celebrity energy for a good cause. The actor arrived on French soil from the USA earlier this week and will stay in the Sarthe department until Sunday.

Dempsey will drive with what he calls "a great deal of humility. I'm honored to be associated and to help bring awareness to this cause. It's a pleasure to race for this and it really is a lot of extra motivation for getting around the track."

According to team-mate Joe Foster, who once helped train ┬ęDempsey, he is "a good student who is very focused despite the fact that he is a celebrity driver. Dempsey takes racing very seriously and listens very carefully to take on all the sporting and business aspect of the sport. A bit similar to another Le Mans fan: Paul Newman!"

"I had a good teacher who developed my talents very cautiously," Dempsey laughed in return. "I learn something new at every race. So far Le Mans has lived up to my expectations and everyone is fantastic. I'll never forget this weekend. The fans are really amazing here too."

For a man who owns his own Ferrari, to be driving in the GT2 class was a great match. "We wanted a good level that was fast. Of course we also had to see what options were available for us. We looked long and hard. GT2 is the category to be in for a first outing. Anything can happen in such a race but we want to finish for our cause." Team Advanced Engineering raises US$680 for the children with every finished lap, with the aim of collecting 50,000 euros for children born with heart defects. The money will be used to surgically treat the children and the racing at Les 24 Heures du Mans should raise enough money to help save the lives of five children.

After all, to be driving a Ferrari on the 60th anniversary from the first of the nine Ferrari victories at Le Mans, the year where Sir Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, current Ferrari and Fiat Group President, was invited to give the starting signal of race on Saturday, is rather symbolic. But the actor remains level headed about his role: "We are proud of our preparation and of our project. We are very serious and our hearts would be broken if we don't make it to the finish."

While Dempsey is not currently a Rolex owner, he said with a smile, "I don't have one yet- I'm hoping I can win one!"

All the drivers on the team are fathers of small children, and they have all said that the cause is particularly close to their hearts. You can catch team Advanced Engineering in action at the start of Les 24 Heures du Mans, Saturday at 15:00.

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