DAYTONA BEACH , Fla. (Dec. 10, 2007) – The Rolex 24 At Daytona is attracting racing stars from across the world to compete in the Jan. 26-27 twice-round-the-clock sports car challenge. But the kickoff event to the international motorsports calendar is also attracting a star from Hollywood -- actor Patrick Dempsey, the star of the hit ABC show "Grey's Anatomy."
Dempsey was among a handful of drivers and teams at Daytona International Speedway on Monday to kick off a two-day test session to prepare for the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 26-27, the season-opening event to the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Cask No. 16 and the most prestigious sports car race in North America.
Dempsey was shaking down a SoBe Hyper Sport Mazda RX-8 with co-drivers Charles Espenlaub and Joe Foster as he prepares for his first career start in the Rolex 24.
"It's really good to have some time to test properly without the pressure of a race day," Dempsey said during the lunch break. “I can go and get some feedback from the data and really start to improve specific sections of the track where I'm losing time. That's really important when I’m driving with Joe and Charles, to kind of keep on their pace or get as close to it as possible and then just be consistent. I'm really happy to have a day where we're relaxed and going about it properly and not trying to play catch up constantly."
Hyper Sport, one of the top teams in the KONI Challenge Series, is making the move to the Rolex Series in 2008. In between television and film shoots, Dempsey has run five KONI Challenge Series races for Hyper Sport in each of the past two years and posted a career best sixth-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the spring of 2007.
At Daytona International Speedway, Dempsey has one lone start in the 2006 Fresh From Florida 200 KONI Challenge Series race finishing 30th in the Grand Sport class and 32nd overall in the 83-car field.
With television production being halted due to the Writer's Guild of America strike, Dempsey is finding plenty of time to properly prepare for the grueling Rolex 24.
"Its real quiet right now -- the writer's strike -- so it's giving me a great opportunity to go racing" Dempsey said. "It' s really good because I've worked like three and half years straight there without a break. I've finally had the last five weeks off so I could start to do some training for this and get ready."
"We get to test here and then we will come back in January and then we will be ready for the race. If I can get some more testing in where it's really low key like this it makes a big difference for me. It takes the pressure off. I can go out, I can push the car a lot more and I can make a mistake and it's OK"
Rolex 24 sports car testing will continue on Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway. The test is free and open to the public with free access to the Oldfield Grandstand through the lobby of Daytona 500 Experience.
Race fans can purchase their tickets for the 46th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 26-27 online at www.racetickets.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. If race fans purchase a two-day advance infield/grandstand ticket by Jan. 19, they will receive a free collectible Rolex 24 hat.