Patrick Dempsey's Le Mans journey headed for TV
FILE - In a June 25, 2011 file photo, Patrick Dempsey attends the German premier of the movie Transformer 3 in Berlin. Dempsey is bringing his passion for auto racing to television with a new documentary series. The Velocity channel said Thursday, April 5, 2012 that the "Grey's Anatomy" star will produce "Road to Le Mans," a four-part series about his competition in the venerable French race next year. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Patrick Dempsey is bringing his passion for auto racing to television with a new documentary series.
The "Grey's Anatomy" star will produce "Road to Le Mans," a four-part series about his competition in the venerable French race, the Velocity channel said Thursday.
Dempsey, who has a professional auto racing team based in Georgia, will be both owner and driver at the 24-hour endurance race in June.
"Road to Le Mans," set to air by mid-2013, will include his team's preparation for the event, including sponsor acquisition, training and time trials, and the race itself.
Dempsey, a documentary buff, said combining the series and the art of racing is a "perfect fit."
For the fledgling, 6-month-old Velocity, "Road to Le Mans" represents its biggest financial commitment yet to a series or a special, said Bob Scanlon, the channel's general manager and senior vice president.
Velocity is part of Discovery Communications Inc., which was to announce its channels' upcoming programming Thursday in New York for advertisers. Formerly HD Theater, Velocity reaches about 40 million homes and focuses on topics including cars, sports, adventure and travel.
FILE - In this June 9, 2011 file photo, actor Patrick Dempsey poses for photographs in front of the Mazda 787 B, which won the race in 1991, in Le Mans, western France. Dempsey is producing and will be featured in "Road to Le Mans," a Velocity channel series that will follow the actor-race car driver as he prepares for the famed auto endurance race. (AP Photo/Vincent Michel, file)
Dempsey, who has driven at Le Mans before, exemplifies the "timeless cool" that is part of the channel's brand as it targets a male, upscale audience, Scanlon said.
The actor also can bring racing's drama to a new generation, he said, following in the tradition of other stars who competed on film and in real life, including Paul Newman ("Winning"), James Garner ("Grand Prix") and Steve McQueen ("Le Mans").
The mix, however, creates a burden of proof that an actor isn't merely a dilettante driver.
"You have people who are skeptical, who are looking for any mistake to make that the story, rather than the small things you've done successfully," Dempsey said.
He and his Mazda racing team have gained increasing credibility. Even with commitments to his day job that limit his competition, Dempsey's posted top 10 finishes, including a career-best third last year with his teammates at the Rolex 24 in Daytona Beach, Fla.