“It’s exciting and scary.” Michael Fassbender is feeling pretty tense as he prepares for his first appearance on the grid of the world’s greatest endurance race. “Its the history and the respect for the place that gets you, I just hope that I perform well, after this four-year journey. I feel like another four years would have been good! Anyway, it’s almost surreal to be here.”
The actor, twice nominated at the Oscars, is already familiar with the circuit. He was guest of honour in 2018 and took to the track during the Porsche Carrera Cup, curtain-raiser to the 2020 24 Hours, then at Test Day in 2021. Since then, he has been racing in the ELMS at the wheel of his Porsche 911 RSR-19. You can catch up on his journey in the web series, Michael Fassbender: Road to Le Mans.
Before Fassbender, other Hollywood names have taken up the Le Mans challenge - Paul Newman and Patrick Dempsey, for example. And the race has also featured on the big screen, in the iconic film Le Mans (Katzin/Sturges, 1971) with Steve McQueen, another huge motorsports fan: “I’ve watched Steve McQueen’s movie maybe three times. What I love about it is that I don’t think any other film has captured what it’s like to drive at those speeds and translate that feeling to an audience. For me, that was revolutionary. Ford v Ferrari (or Le Mans 66, Mangold, 2019) was great too,” he adds.
Patrick Dempsey, who has had ties with the German outfit since his second Le Mans race in 2014, is never far away. “Patrick didn’t really gave me that much advice. I know he’s gonna be here at some point but Matt Campbell will guide me through this. He’s very experienced here so I’ll rely on him heavily.”
Combining the acting job with a racing career is no mean feat. “When the racing season finishes, I become an actor again. It’s important to split, because racing requires a lot of attention, a lot of commitment. If I do something, I do it at 100 %. There are similarities between acting and driving, it’s about having lots of information to process, not thinking about the past or the future, just to be absolutely present so that you stay focused and relaxed. That’s a very addictive feeling.”
The star of Twelve years a Slave has certainly fallen under the spell of the the race. He firmly intends to make it to the chequered flag and to enjoy the Le Mans magic to the full. “There’s something so addictive and magical that’s hard to put into words. As soon as I left the track I wanted to go back on again immediately. Even the town itself, you can feel the race is in the blood here. It’s proper motor racing.”
The crew's #93 Porsche 911 RSR-19 finished P45 at the end of Test Day and sixth in the LMGTE Am class.