Michael Fassbender’s racing journey

The actor Michael Fassbender, known from films such as “X-Men”, “Inglourious Basterds” and “12 Years a Slave”, has also made a career as a racing driver with the goal of reaching the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Fassbender, a two-time Oscar nominee, will make that dream come true by racing a Porsche 911 RSR-19 at Le Mans this weekend.

Fassbender will drive for Team Proton Competition in the GTE-Am class, which is designed for grand tourer cars that have at least one amateur in their lineup. That will be Fassbender, who will share the wheel with Zacharie Robichon from Canada and Porsche works driver Matt Campbell from Australia.

Fassbender, who could not be reached for comment, said in a 2020 Porsche press release that racing was his “first dream” even before he acted and that his goal was to reach Le Mans. “I always knew that from a young age,” he says. “I’ve always had an affinity for cars, a connection to driving and speed.”

Fassbender built his racing experience at Porsche, which brought him closer to his goal at Le Mans. He drove in a Porsche Championship in Germany before moving up to the European Le Mans Series in 2020 and competed in two Porsche Supercup races.

Proton Competition finished fourth in last year’s championship, with Fassbender scoring his first podium by finishing second at the 4 Hours of Portimão in Portugal. More success followed earlier this year in France where he finished third at Le Castellet and was just five points adrift of the championship lead after two races.

Fassbender isn’t the first Hollywood star to dream of driving at Le Mans. Steve McQueen attempted to compete in the race during the filming of Le Mans in 1970, while Paul Newman finished second overall in a Porsche 935 in 1979. Patrick Dempsey made his Le Mans debut in 2009 and finished second in the GTE-Am class in 2015. He remains the owner of the Dempsey-Proton Racing team, which is an integral part of Le Mans.

Dempsey played an important role in Fassbender’s journey to Le Mans after a chance encounter on a flight from London to Los Angeles. “I followed motorsport and congratulated it on a good result at the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said Fassbender in the press release. “We just started talking about getting into racing, and then he made contact with Porsche Motorsport.”

Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which organizes Le Mans, said the race “has always had a special connection to the film world”.

“Michael Fassbender has decided to take on the challenge and I’m impressed with how he has responded and taken every step in preparation for Le Mans,” said Fillon. “He’s approaching the race with tremendous determination and I expect him to put in a great performance.”

Fassbender’s previous races have never been longer than four hours, making a 24-hour race a huge step up. Mike Conway, one of the drivers who won Le Mans for Toyota last year, said the race is tough and “a drudgery” that can make you “hate when things don’t go your way “.

“But it’s definitely very special,” Conway added. “You don’t really get the story until you’re there in the moment, especially at the start of the race when all the teams are lined up and the national anthems are playing, and you realize that’s really big.”

Luis Felipe Derani from Brazil has driven at Le Mans six times. His advice to Fassbender was: “Save your energy”.

“It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the size of the event,” said Derani, “and when you start the race all your energy is gone and you still have 24 hours of hard racing ahead of you.

“Save your energy and go easy on your body because you’re going to need it and that will make a big difference in the bottom line.”

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