Newcastle racer to participate at 24 Hours of Le Mans

April 30, 2009

By Jim Feehan

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Actor Patrick Dempsey also in  fundraiser for Children’s Hospital

Don Kitch Jr. (right), of Newcastle, speaks with actor Patrick Dempsey at the 2008 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona event.  Contributed

Don Kitch Jr. (right), of Newcastle, speaks with actor Patrick Dempsey at the 2008 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona event. Contributed

After conquering the 24 Hours of Daytona and raising more than $3 million for Children’s Hospital, Newcastle’s Don Kitch Jr. has been invited to participate in the most prestigious endurance race in the world this summer — the 24 Hours of Le Mans. “This is like a Seattle tennis player being invited to center court at Wimbledon or a Seattle soccer team invited to the World Cup,” said Kitch, the head of Team Seattle, an endurance racing team.

Le Mans is the premier sports car endurance race with more than 10 times the spectators and millions of television viewers worldwide. Only 55 cars are allowed to participate in the race, Kitch said.

Daytona has 80 entrants on a track roughly four miles long, while the Le Mans course is eight and a half miles with long straight sections.

“It’s not as busy with traffic and the speeds can get very high,” Kitch said.

While he’s turning laps at Le Mans, he will be raising money for Seattle Children’s Hospital, to help advance treatment for critically ill children with heart disease. 

“While winning the race is important, the real goal of the team is to raise $1 million for the Infant Cardiac Care Unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital,” he said.

To raise money, the team is selling space on the team’s Ferrari 430. For $500, you can receive a 1-by-1-inch photo of yourself. The larger the pledge, the bigger the image.

“We’re calling it My Face Raced at Le Mans,” said Kitch, the founder of ProFormance Racing School in Kent. 

Kitch will share the wheel with Joe Foster, of Atlanta, the 2008 Grand-Am Koni Challenge champion, and actor Patrick Dempsey, of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Kitch met Dempsey at the 2008 Daytona event. Dempsey had heard about Team Seattle’s fundraising efforts for Children’s Hospital, Kitch said.

“I like what you’re doing and I’d like to help.’” Dempsey said to Kitch.

Dempsey, 43, is known for his role as neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd on the ABC-TV medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” but he’s no slouch behind the wheel of a racecar, Kitch said.

“I’ve had the opportunity to observe several celebrity drivers, including Tim Allen and Craig T. Nelson, and Dempsey takes racing very seriously,” Kitch said. 

Dempsey has raced in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Baja 1000 and is co-owner of IndyCar Series team Vision Racing. 

“In the car, he’s serious and accomplished,” Kitch said.

Last month, Kitch and Dempsey practiced on the LeMans track in advance of the June 13-14 endurance race. So far, the team has raised about a third of its $1 million goal.

“It’s a pretty big and bold goal, but we’ll reach it,” Kitch said. “But we’re so blessed to have such a world class facility in Seattle Children’s Hospital, and that’s why we’re racing at LeMans.”

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