Actor Michael Fassbender, known for films like “X-Men”, “Inglourious Basterds” and “12 Years a Slave”, has also been pursuing a career as a racing driver with the aim of reaching the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Two-time Oscar nominee Fassbender will fulfill that dream by lining up on the Le Mans grid this weekend, racing a Porsche 911 RSR-19.
Fassbender will race for the Proton Competition team in the GTE-Am class, designed for grand touring cars that include at least one amateur in their lineup. That will be Fassbender, who will share driving duties with Zacharie Robichon of Canada and Porsche factory driver Matt Campbell of Australia.
Fassbender, who could not be reached for comment, said in a Porsche 2020 press release that racing was his “first dream”, even before acting, and that his goal was to reach Le Mans. “It was always very clear to me from a young age,” he said. “I always felt an affinity with cars, I felt a connection with driving and speed.”
Fassbender has been building on his racing experience with Porsche, which has pushed him towards his goal at Le Mans. He raced in a Porsche championship in Germany before moving up to the European Le Mans Series in 2020, as well as competing in two Porsche Supercup races.
The Proton Competition finished fourth in last year’s championship, with Fassbender taking his first podium finish by finishing second in the Portimão 4 Hours in Portugal. More success followed earlier this year in France, where he took third at Le Castellet, leaving him just five points behind the championship lead after two races.
Fassbender isn’t the first Hollywood star with dreams of racing at Le Mans. Steve McQueen tried to enter the race in 1970 while filming “Le Mans”, while in 1979 Paul Newman finished second overall in a Porsche 935. Patrick Dempsey first raced at Le Mans in 2009 and finished second in the GTE-Class. Am in 2015 He remains the owner of the Dempsey-Proton Racing team, which is a regular at Le Mans.
Dempsey played a major role in Fassbender’s path to Le Mans after a chance encounter on a flight from London to Los Angeles. “I was following motorsport and congratulated him 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 special ties to the world of cinema”.
“Michael Fassbender has decided to take up the challenge and I am impressed with the way he has done it, taking each step as he prepares for Le Mans,” said Fillon. “He is approaching the race with tremendous determination and I hope he performs well.”
Fassbender’s previous runs have never lasted longer than four hours, making a 24-hour run a big step. Mike Conway, one of the drivers who won Le Mans last year for Toyota, said the race was tough and “hard work” that can make you “hate it if things aren’t going your way”.
“But it’s definitely very special,” added Conway. “You don’t realize the story until you’re there in the moment, especially at the start of the race, when you have all the teams lined up and the national anthems play, and you realize this is really big.”
Luis Felipe Derani of Brazil has raced at Le Mans six times. His advice to Fassbender was to “save your energy”.
“It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and sucked in by the size of the event,” Derani said, “and the moment you start the race, all your energies are depleted and you still have 24 hours of hard racing to do.
“Save your energy and save your body, because you’re going to need it, and it will make a huge difference to the end result.”