Dempsey/Del Piero Racing announced Thursday that factory Porsche driver Patrick Long will join team drivers Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster at the wheel of the Dempsey Del Piero Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for next month's 90th Annual 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Long was asked by team prinicpal and lead driver Michael Avenatti to take his place in the GTE-AM class Le Mans entry after he had several non-racing business commitments emerge in the last few weeks. Realizing he would not be able to place his 100% focus on his Le Mans debut, Avenatti gave his seat to Long but remains committed to the remainder of the 2013 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season in the GT Challenge (GTC) class.
"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, the popular actor/race car driver who debuted 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 Dempsey Del Piero's two-car Tully's Coffee Porsche 911 GT3 team in 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 factory Porsche driver from America and is universally recognized as one of the top international sports car road racing talents of his generation. His numerous championships and race wins include a pair of GT class victories at Le Mans in 2004 and 2007. Long also captured the GT pole position in 2008 with what was at the time the class track record.
"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 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 have wasted no time getting up to speed and have been in Italy this week testing the team's Porsche at the legendary Monza road course. 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.
"We are pleased both with the progress of our ALMS program as well the chance to return to Le Mans," Foster said. "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."
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