The night before the race we cooked a feast at the Chateau, toasted our Dempsey Del Piero – Proton Race Team, fuel and tires, and promised to keep perspective.  The energy was high but we needed to find some sleep. See, they torture us with a 9am warm-up!  That’s hours and hours before the race.  With my PR hat on, that gave me a bit of time to slide in one more interview for Patrick, then turn the guys over to rest-up in the RV’s, get some physio in, hydrate, eat and chill.  I spent my time diverting requests to meet Patrick; got some meetings done; and, prepared for the full-on social media assault we had waiting in the wings.

90th Anniversary 24Hrs of Le Mans Team Photo
Secret…our guys were running late to the photo. Probably how they ended in the front row next to Audi. (Photo Credit: Rick Dole)
Starting Grid of 2013 24Hrs of Le Mans
I still get chills… (Photo Credit: Rick Dole)

About that…we had been very active on Twitter during the test and race week.  We had a plan in place to take it to the next level.  I knew I wasn’t the person and the right person found me, Ryan Eversley.  A racer and friend of friends, who has a talent for commentating in 140 characters or less; and a knack for nailing our team’s personality.  I’d never met him, but knew from his “audition tape” (Twitter feed) and a couple conversations, we had the right guy. He wasn’t at Le Mans, but did it all from Atlanta, using a direct feed from our team radio via the internet, photos, intel and Vines from Pattie Hughes Mayer and myself.  He ran with it and stayed with it, the whole day into the next.  Our goal was to bring our fans and followers into the fold – be transparent, share our ups and downs, give them information no one else had.  It soon became obvious that the news organizations were relying on our feed as well.  Good fun and @radiolemans gave @DempseyDelPiero the Twitter-win for the race.

Dempsey Del Piero Racing's Live Tweets During 2013 Le Mans
Live Tweets During 2013 Le Mans

And the Vines…we embraced the Vines.  I admit that Jordan Taylor set the bar high, in his Vine documentation of his Le Mans adventure.  He even beat us to the punch on a couple ideas.  That just made us even more creative.  Our Le Mans Start Vine, along with Patrick’s Rain Dance were pretty popular.  We kept it up during the race, with our behind the scenes clips and silliness.  This is the part that shows the world, the real Dempsey Racing team.  We laugh and laugh at ourselves.  We are serious about racing and race to win, but it only happens with a healthy dose of fun.

So the race happened.  I don’t need to recount the details. (You can read our Twitter feed for that.) It was a long night, and busy for all of us.  All that time you think you’ll have, to ride the Ferris wheel or go shopping, doesn’t happen.  Time in between stints flies by, you eat constantly in order to stay alert (at least I did).  You search out the hospitality with the most Red Bull.  You’re glued to the timing and scoring, the broadcast feed and the radios.

Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Racing
Bobbing and weaving… (Photo Credit: Rick Dole)

In addition to the usual race tension, this year’s race was scarred with the passing of a great race car driver, Allan Simonsen. It weighed heavy on us and it was one of the most difficult team experiences, to deliver the news to the drivers. This sport captivates us and the risks are high, but we pushed on in his memory and all those that have lost their lives, following their passions.

Every minute counts in this 24 hour race.  Every minute they don’t make a mistake is a minute closer to our finish.  Every pit that goes smoothly is a pit closer to a result.  It’s like that.  And that’s exactly how it ended for us.  One position off the podium, due to a punctured tire early in the race.  We ran a clean, strong race and that one little mishap, cost us the 90 seconds we were out from a podium finish.

Demspey Del Piero - Proton No. 77 Pit Stop
The Proton Competition crew guys were fun to watch. Smooth, mistake free pit stops can be the difference in a close fought race. (Photo Credit: Rick Dole)

I admit to a few tears in the moment.  We wanted that podium so badly.  But as time passes, and we evaluate the big picture – 4th place is a friggin’ huge achievement.  We weren’t supposed to be that close. As a team, we let it all hang out.  We exposed our vulnerabilities, along with our strengths, in pursuit of our racing passions.

We’re proud of Patrick’s performance, despite a long year’s worth of scrutiny, cameras and pressure, he held on.  He’s a racer through and through, and we left no lingering doubts.  Joe Foster still has it after 30 years of racing.  Patrick Long proved himself a strong team player and professional. To us, Long is a friend and part of our team no matter where he’s racing.  We’ll never say enough great things about him…and his sense of humor.

Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Crossing Finish Line
Just fantastic. We didn’t just finish – we laid it all out there. (Photo Credit: Rick Dole)

Most importantly, I was there. I took in every moment. I was part of something bigger than myself. I hold on to that and push my competitiveness to the side to enjoy everything that was the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Now about 2014…

Some fun stats about the drivers:

Dempsey drove for 5 hours, 50 minutes, well above the 240 minutes (4 hours) required.
Best lap time was a 4:08.85

Foster drove about 7 hours, 40 minutes.
Best lap time was a 4:04.39

Long drove about 10 hours, 30 minutes.
Best lap time was a 3:57:99

For more…
My Life at Speed Facebook Photo Album
Twitter: @dempseydelpiero
Vine: @meickhoff
Facebook: Official Dempsey Racing Fan Site
Photo credit: Rick Dole, Team Photographer and all-around great guy. Thanks for all your help!