Hollywood superstar Michael Fassbender takes on Le Mans

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Hollywood Superstar Michael Fassbender Takes On Le Mans Hollywood Superstar Michael Fassbender Takes On Le Mans
Michael Fassbender has joined the pro-am driving squad of Dempsey-Proton Racing, campaigning a Porsche 911 RSR racing car in the GTE category of Le Mans.
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Neil Briscoe

Le Mans is not short of glamour, nor of connections with Hollywood. Famously, the late, great Paul Newman raced at Le Mans, and were it not for an engine problem in the final few hours, would probably have won the race outright in 1979. Meanwhile, Steve McQueen immortalised Le Mans on screen with a massive, and massively long, big-screen version of the race in 1971.

Hoping to emulate Newman’s successes is Irish-German superstar Michael Fassbender.

Fassbender is taking on a new challenge, and has joined the pro-am driving squad of Dempsey-Proton Racing, campaigning a Porsche 911 RSR racing car in the GTE category of Le Mans. GTE is the Le Mans class that uses cars — Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Corvette — which look mostly like cars you can actually buy and drive on the road (unlike the LMP prototype racers which look more like spaceships).

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Dempsey-Proton Racing has had much success in GT racing since it was formed in 2014, and Fassbender won’t be alone as a Hollywood star in the pit — the Dempsey in the name refers to Patrick Dempsey, co-owner of the team (and formerly a driver too) who is best known for his long-running role in television series Grey’s Anatomy, as well as big-screen films such as Bridget Jones’s Baby and Enchanted.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans,“ Fassbender said as the race’s practice days kicked off. “And the thing with dreams is you don’t think about how much work you’ve invested or how many setbacks you’ve had to face. I not only learned what it takes to contest a race weekend but also how to be competitive. It’s giving me a fascinating opportunity to show my full potential. It could be a one-off chance so I simply want to do my best.”

“It’s always been a dream of mine to contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans,“ Fassbender said as the race’s practice days kicked off.

Racing career

Fassbender and Dempsey have been plotting this racing career-switch since 2018, and the Kerry-born actor isn’t one of those glory hounds who is only showing up for the big-ticket race at Le Mans — he competed in an entire season of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) in 2020 in preparation for this.

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As a highlight of the season, Fassbender celebrated his first podium result in the ELMS, with second place at the final round in Portimao, Portugal, in late October 2021. “That podium spot was very important for everyone in the team,” he said. “After all the disappointments, the occasional setbacks and missed opportunities over the past three years, this result felt incredibly good.”

“Michael may not be the most natural talent, but he’s a hard worker,” says his teammate Richard Lietz. “That’s why I’m putting in such a big effort to help him and prepare for the challenge of the Le Mans 24-hour race. I quickly recognised his potential during our first season together.”

Appropriately, Dempsey-Proton has changed the colour scheme of its no.91 car from a diamond-pattern of blue, black, and grey to a matte green with orange highlights.

Dempsey-Proton has changed the colour scheme of its no.91 car from a diamond-pattern of blue, black, and grey to a matte green with orange highlights.

Fassbender didn’t get off to the greatest of starts — he crashed his Porsche heavily during the first qualifying session, triggering a red flag which caused the session to be stopped for a while.

The great Mario Andretti — Formula One world champion and Indy 500 winner — once said that Paul Newman was a good enough driver to win a world title, if he’d given up acting and focused on driving. Will Fassbender be good enough to follow in those illustrious wheel-tracks?

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