THIRD-PLACE FINISHING TEAM
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are going to continue now with our third-place team in GT, the No. 40 Mazda RX-80 group, Jeff Foster, Tim Long, Charles Espenlaub and team owner, Patrick Dempsey. Best career GT finish for all of these guys, wonderful afternoon. We are going to go right to questions.
Q: Patrick, in terms of story lines, we have yourself flying back and forth constantly, we have a win almost in your hand and you come back to third; is this writing its own script for you?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Pretty much. It's been an amazing weekend, just getting here in itself. And testing, a really good test early on in the weekend, I think Thursday it felt good and comfortable and probably the best I've ever run here. And then I had to get jerked out of that and go to the premiere at Sundance and that was disorienting, it was hard to get there because it takes your mind out of it completely and then the wear and tear to get there and come back.
Saturday morning, I believe it was, I got back about five in the morning and didn't get very much sleep. It's a very demanding morning before the race starts with a lot of demands on and you by the time I got in the carry was completely depleted, I didn't have a lot of energy, I didn't have the same snap in practice which was difficult and demoralizing to that stint.
I got out of the car and was extremely frustrated and upset with myself and was like, what am I doing wasting my time if I'm not going to be successful and be out there and be competitive; was it a mistake to go out and do the premiere?
And had a lot of time to think about it in the mobile home and I was listening to Tom on the radio talking and how much joy in his voice when he was communicating with the engineer who did a fabulous job this weekend. And it reminded me of like, remember to have fun and forget about how lucky we are to be here and competing with such an incredibly talented group of drivers.
And to really work through all of those emotions and to get out to and to find a place where I was much more aggressive, and then I found myself leading the 24 Hours, which was remarkable. And it was at night, too, which was fantastic because it was just the drivers -- no, they wouldn't tell me. I was like, "How are we doing?"
"No, keep going, you're going fine, same pace. Same pace." And I had been working with Jacques Lalanne, and it really helped me on the mental side to really stay focused and to overcome those obstacles.
And then of course the ride getting out of the car, I pretty much wiped out. And then we were leading for so long. It was an amazing time to stay focused mentally, to just not get too far ahead of yourself. And we had a long way to go.
And you just think of the waves of emotions. I started racing at the tennis school, a long time ago, and Joe was the head instructor and Charles was the instructor, and from that, getting off the couch from watching SPEED on Sunday, to go and follow your dreams and to be here, it's pretty special.
Q: Piggybacking off that question, talk about what this win means for the development of your driving career, podium in a world-renowned sports car race.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: I think it's important for our development as a team. The sacrifices Joe has done personally and professionally to get us here; and Curt, our team, they have worked so hard the last few months with not the kind of funding that other teams have.
I think more importantly, it's validation to their hard work, and this is a team sport. We are very fortunate to be sitting up here the four of us but we have a lot of guys and girls who have made it possible for us to be here and I think that's what it says, that these guys are doing the right thing. Curt is a fabulous engineer, Jim called a good race and Charles drove his heart out and Joe, Tom, all of them really dug deep to get us here.
And towards the ends, to just watch them and to be on the wall and hear everybody's journey with each stint was an incredibly joyous, tragic, fun moment. And I think hopefully if we can continue with our team and to have those values emotionally that we can continue on, I hope that's what it means. I hope that's what we can build.
Q: What is your schedule going to be like this year in terms of the races you're going to do and does having a finish like this make it even harder to get out of the race car?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yeah I'm retiring from Grey's Anatomy as of today. I'll be racing full-time from here on in. There's a headline for you. (Laughter).
No, it's really tricky because you have to balance the two. And this weekend, it was so obvious with having to get to the premiere that was successful, and the career, I had to balance them out. I hope I can successfully balance both out in the competitive -- be competitive in both of those arenas and make time for both. Next time hopefully (indiscernible) is here to see it.
Q: Does this mean that the team management can put the cattle prod away?
CHARLES ESPENLAUB: She asked last night about some of our successes, and I told her about our new team manager and what the success was and how he kind of pushes the team. And I said he has a cattle prod and he prods us every time we get in the car.
No, everybody did a great job on the team and obviously it's yelling well, and like Patrick said, Joe and his family and everybody there puts their heart into it. The success shows, everybody year we get better and better. To answer some of your questions, he's too modest to say it; he's got a good passion and true passion for the sport. He's not someone that just wants to come in here and race because it's cool. He does it because he loves it. It's good to work with him.
Q: Just through the night and throughout the race, any minor or major problems with the car, just being able to post the podium finish that you posted?
TOM LONG: We had quite a few adventures with the car. It's a living, breathing thing, and she was definitely the walking/running wounded at the end of the race, like all cars are to some degree.
We always plan as a team to try -- that's what racing is, the objective is to win but we looked at each other around midnight last night and we were leading and had been for a while. I'm sure I'm not telling anything that anybody would be surprise that had we were pretty incredulous about that, especially, obviously given the relative pace of the different makes right now.
It was exciting, and the car ran like a top. We had the sort of famous Mazda reliability. Rotary engine Mazda engines have won these races many times dating back to the 70s. We did have some electrical issues with the car, having to chase connectors and batteries and a few little things around the car. But the actual big parts of the car, the engine only has four moving parts, right, the centric shaft and three rotors; it's still running, it's usually fine. It only has four parts.
So as long as we didn't hit or be hit, then we did fine and the car is actually admirably in good shape. The guys in the shop actually put the worst body work in the car trying to get rid of it. They have one nose called the Frankenose because it's been done so many times but unfortunately the Frankenose lives still.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, congratulations, great afternoon.