Patrick Long - Not Your Normal American Racer
The Need To Win Overall

Patrick Long is not your normal young America race car driver. Period. Instead of following the fashionable trend of all things NASCAR, Patrick went against the grain to make a living in the sport he loves. But he does feel that sportscar racing will give him the vehicle to promote himself and his talents, so that he eventually becomes a household name. Gary Horrocks found out more...

dailysportscar.com“Growing up in Southern California, I was exposed to all types of racing. I was a diverse fan as it is easy to be when you’re growing up. Yes, I was a fan of oval racing when I was young, but soon realized that karting was the way to go.”

So he started karting in So-Cal, obviously exhibiting great success. By the age of 16, he was ready to move to Europe to pursue his dreams. “My parents installed trust in me and we knew that Europe was the place to be. Living on my own, at age 16 was a big eye opener. It was a new experience, culturally, but being as young as I was, it was a good thing. I guess I was too young to know any better.”

dailysportscar.comAltthough he was young, he was showing a maturity well beyond his years. “I knew that these sort of opportunities don’t come along often, so I had to do what I could. It wasn’t easy though, to be a 16 year old, trying to raise funds in a foreign country. Thankfully, I met up with an engineer for the karting importer CRG, and he took me under his wing, telling his bosses that this is the kid they needed.”

From there, he went from success to success, becoming the first American to win an International European event and became the first American to really make a mark in international karting. But his time in karting did not last, as he moved up to cars much quicker than expected, winning a scholarship in the Elf La Filiere Campus single seater series in 1999.

Patrick continued on the fast track, moving into the British Formula Ford series in 2000 and 2001, while also driving in the Skip Barber Series in the States. “I walked away from an F3 scholarship in France. I knew that Britain was the way to go.” Running the British Championship involved two different teams in the two years for Patrick, which allowed him to “concentrate on my race-craft,” culminating with a two poles and three wins in 2001, finishing the season as the vice-champion.

2002 saw a move to the British Formula Renault series and also become a finalist in the Red Bull F1 Driver search. It was here that Porsche first showed an interest. “I’m still not exactly sure what Helmut Greiner and Uwe Brettel saw in me that caused them to choose me, but I was the only one invited to the UPS Junior Team. The timing was right. I had reached the age and maturity to realize that it would take manufacturer support to build my career. As I didn’t have a family that was able to financially support me in my efforts so far, my career had reached a point where I was able to get in front of a manufacturer, so when Porsche offered, I jumped at it. In pure honesty, I’ve tried to position myself where the market is, and that is with a manufacturer.”

dailysportscar.comSo, in 2003, Patrick became a member of the Porsche Junior team, racing in the Michelin Supercup, and the British and German Carrera Cups. “Racing in front of the F1 crowds at places like Monaco was wild. That was my first podium and I remember stopping on the front straight after the race was over. It was breathtaking… The next few races saw three more top four finishes. No bang-bang wins, but consistent finishes. At first, driving the car was a difficult transition. At 2500 lbs, it was much heavier than what I was used to and much more physical to drive, but eventually, it just clicked.”

“To compete in these races, you must have major confidence in yourself. It is such a followed series. The pressure is huge. To gain status as a full factory driver, you must do your job. You must win races and win poles. Yes, being an American might be a benefit, as the American market is so important to Porsche. But my nationality will not carry me. At the time, it was a three year program. If I didn’t win the Championship, I didn’t move on.”

But, when 2003 was all over, in 16 races, Patrick won four poles, three races and six podiums. And this was only his first year. So, the call went out for him to join The Racer’s Group at Petit Le Mans, for the ALMS finale that season. “It was sort of bittersweet to move up. All during my career racing cars, I had never stayed put long enough to really get to know the tracks and really feel that I could strongly compete for a championship. It was always one year and move on. Mike Rockenfeller had a stronger season in the Supercup, but both of us got called up for the race and everything went according to plan. Afterwards, I got the nod to move up to the ALMS, but part of me wanted to stay back and compete for the Supercup. I knew I could move on, but I thought it rather odd to be back Stateside, where I hadn’t really competed for quite some time. It was strange, but everything at home was foreign to me. The tracks, the series, the officials.

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“All in all, 2004 was a good year in the ALMS. I was able to learn the circuits and compete. Maybe the results weren’t really what I would have liked. We started out pretty strong, but lost out as the year went on.”

2004 also saw Patrick make his competition debut at Le Mans, with the Petersen / White Lightning team.

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“I’d been there before, but this was the first time for me to drive there. It was overwhelming. Getting any laps on track there is a rarity. I just had to keep a cool head and keep telling myself that it is only a race, even though realistically this could be the best opportunity I could ever have to win it. It was sort of like I was jumping in head first. I was in with the defending champions of the race and both of my teammates had been there before. I had to eat up the pressure - block it out and get on to what was natural, which was just racing. For me, adapting to endurance racing has not been too difficult. The hardest thing to deal with is getting overtaken by the faster traffic. I underestimated what it would be like to be overtaken by the faster cars. It takes a bit to reset your focus after a prototype blows past.”

When was all over, Patrick found himself on the top of the podium. “Actually, the podium was sort of dull. I had to keep the mind frame that I’d been there many times. Now, if it ever happens again for me, it might be different. I think I might be able to enjoy it more.”

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For 2005, Patrick is back in the Petersen / White Lightning Porsche, reunited with his Le Mans teammate Jorg Bergmeister - and Lucas Luhr at Sebring.

“Racing with this team is really good. We don’t ride the wave, so to speak. We pay attention to what we are doing and what our lap times are. We keep a cool head, stay focused and don’t worry about what the other teams are doing. All we care about is fast times. Our confidence about this season is as high as it has been, but we know it won’t be easy.”

dailysportscar.comThat confidence is well placed, as the team had a very strong showing at Sebring, being at or near the top in most of the sessions, and winning in dominant fashion.

“Sebring was a prime example of how good our team is. We had a left front shock go bad. It lost most of the compression and all of the rebound, but the car was almost as quick as it had been; we just had to be careful to miss the major bumps and be as smooth as possible. So, the team made a great call in keeping us out in track. We had a good lead and all we had to do was get it home.

“When the three of us (who won Le Mans) are racing together, there is no fighting for power. We are three different people and we all have our strengths. Jorg is very technical - very good at setting up the car. Sascha is the big brother. He’s been there and done that, having success everywhere he has been. Nothing bothers him.

“This season, I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to return to tracks that I’m getting to know. I love what I’m doing. Hey, I’m a kid at heart and sometimes I find it hard to ask to get paid to do what I am doing. But I need to look at it from the business side. Things can change so quickly. I’m unbelievably lucky for being a factory driver for Porsche. It’s such a great company and has such a great following. And racing in the ALMS is fantastic. It is the premiere series in North America, if not the world. From a marketing standpoint for me, it is outstanding. As a driver, it is up to me, with the support of my team, and Porsche, to win races. Then, I can become a household name here."

Next event is the Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta.

“But for now, I want to win these races. Then hopefully win overall in the future…”

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