Actor Michael Fassbender, known for movies like “X-Men,” “Inglourious Basterds” and “12 Years a Slave,” has also been carving out a career as a racing driver with the goal of reaching the 24 Hours of Le Mans. .
Fassbender, a two-time Academy Award nominee, will make that dream come true by lining up on the grid at Le Mans this weekend, racing a Porsche 911 RSR-19.
Fassbender will compete 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 2020 Porsche press release that racing was his “first dream” even before he acted, 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 competed in a Porsche championship in Germany before moving on to the Le Mans European Series in 2020, as well as competing in two Porsche Super Cup races.
Proton Competition finished fourth in last year’s championship, with Fassbender scoring his first podium finish by finishing second at the 4 Hours of Portimão in Portugal. More success followed earlier this year in France, where he took third at Le Castellet to leave him just five points off the championship lead after two races.
Fassbender is not the first Hollywood star to dream of racing at Le Mans. Steve McQueen attempted 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 still owns the Dempsey-Proton Racing team, which is a regular fixture at Le Mans.
Dempsey played a major role in Fassbender’s road to Le Mans after a chance meeting on a flight from London to Los Angeles. “He was following motorsports and was congratulating him on a good result at the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” Fassbender said in the press release. “We started talking about getting into racing, and then he got in touch with Porsche Motorsport.”
Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest that organizes Le Mans, said the race “has always had special links with the world of cinema”.
“Michael Fassbender has decided to take on the challenge and I am impressed with how he has done it, taking every step that comes his way in preparing for Le Mans,” said Fillon. “He is 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 forward. 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 if things don’t go your way”.
“But it’s definitely a really special one,” Conway added. “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 are playing, and you realize this is really important.”
Luis Felipe Derani of Brazil has raced at Le Mans six times. His advice to Fassbender was “save energy.”
“It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and absorbed by how big the event is,” said Derani, “and by the time you start the race, all your energy is gone 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 that’s going to make a big difference to the bottom line.”