Le MANS, France – Dempsey Racing-Proton drivers Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster and Patrick Long finished fifth in an eventful 24 Hours of Le Mans last weekend.
Although the #TeamAmerica trio came up just short in improving on last year’s fourth-place GTE-AM showing in the No. 77 Dempsey Racing-Proton Porsche 911 RSR, Dempsey and Foster have now finished in the top-10 in each of their three Le Mans starts.
The duo debuted at Circuit de la Sarthe in 2009 and were the anchor drivers in a ninth-place GT2 finish. Long, America’s only factory Porsche driver, has Le Mans class victories in 2004 and 2007.
The No. 77 rounded out the top five but Proton’s No. 88 Porsche 911 RSR, of Christian Ried, Klaus Bachler and Khaled Al Qubaisi, moved into second at the race’s halfway point and stayed there until the end.
In addition to the top finishes, Dempsey Racing and Proton also combined for Porsche’s top GTE-AM qualifying efforts last week at Le Mans. Long qualified and started the No. 77 in seventh, one spot behind Bachler in the No. 88.
“It was good result for us, certainly not what we wanted, we came here to win, but to join Proton in giving Porsche its best results, really for the entire event, you have to be pleased,” Dempsey said.
“Christian runs a great team, Klaus was our teammate at Daytona and Sebring this year and it was a pleasure meeting and teaming with Khaled. Great result for them, really for us too, but we are just not going to be completely happy until we win at Le Mans.”
Like last year’s race, the No. 77 led the GTE-AM class, endured wet weather and suffered a punctured tire while also dealing with some new Le Mans challenges.
Starting driver Long led a good portion of the race’s opening hours when infrequent but persistent showers seemed to work well for him and the No. 77 Porsche.
Relying on some great strategy calls from the team, Long raced to the front of not only the GTE-AM field but also showed the way to all of the professional drivers in the GTE-PRO division for the last part of his race-opening stint.
He pitted for the final time three hours and 40 minutes into his shift, handing the Porsche over to Dempsey in the lead.
“It was great to lead early on, not only in GTE-AM, but all the GTE cars, and that really came down to a wise strategy to let the weather play out and not dive into the pits for tire choices,” Long said. “It was touch and go there for a while, with a lot of incidents under the safety car period, but it was still the right call and a great job by our strategy guys on pit wall.”