Factory Porsche Driver Looks for Two in a Row in 2017 Street Races
LONG BEACH, Calif. – When sports car racer Patrick Long and his family walk down The Strand near his home in Manhattan Beach, Calif., they don’t receive much attention. It’s just a cute, young family enjoying the beach.
In fact, Long’s younger brother, Kevin “Spanky” Long, would gain much more attention in the area as a world renowned skateboarding star.
But put Patrick in the paddock of LeMans, Daytona, Sebring, Bathurst, Nürburgring and Long Beach and racing fans will flock to him as one of the top sports car drivers in the world.
The 35-year-old factory Porsche driver has won sports car races in almost every continent in the world including countries like Japan, Australia, Mexico, China, Germany, Canada, England, France, Bahrain and, of course, the United States.
Long, the 2011 Pirelli World Challenge GT champion, now comes close to home for his next sports car contest at the April 7-9 “Roar by the Shore” and the 43rd annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the nation’s great street racing event.
“I was into racing as a child,” says Long, the current Pirelli World Challenge GT point leader after a recent win in the streets of St. Petersburg in his No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. “My uncle Pat was a motocross racer and I would go to Ascot Park (famous dirt track in Gardena, Calif.) with him to see Speedway motorcycles, sprint cars and the even the demolition derby. And we went to see the IndyCars and sports cars at Long Beach too.”
While Long’s dad (John) was into surfing and his brother into skateboarding, motor racing was Patrick’s passion growing up in Thousand Oaks, Calif. In fact, we won a big international karting event in Europe and moved to England while in high school to pursue an open-wheel career. He was successful in the single seaters but got an offer to move into sports cars.
“I called many people for advice on my career,” said Long. “Should I continue my quest to try and reach F1 or sign the sports car deal? I beat (Fernando) Alonso. I beat Sam Hornish. I beat Danica (Patrick) in Europe. What should I do? In 2003, I attended the 24 Hours of LeMans as a spectator. And twelve months later, I was on the top step of the podium there. What a thrill!”
And Long has never really looked back. He has driven Porsche machinery at every major racing facility in the world and winning in those cars too.
“Racing a Porsche for a living is the best,” said Patrick. “The day that racing doesn’t pay the bills anymore, I’ll still be in racing. “Along with my family, it’s what makes me the happiest. It’s not about the champagne and money. It’s about getting behind the wheel. And I like talking about the sport too.”
Right now, Long is one of the best in the world behind the wheel of a sports car and hopes to return to victory lane at the racing circuit just down the road from his home. Patrick has already won at Long Beach (ALMS races in 2009 and 2010). But he wants to do it this year for many reasons.
“I want to put that No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R back in victory lane at Long Beach,” he said. “We had a good weekend at St. Petersburg with a victory and a third and we lead the points going to Long Beach. And also winning in front of my family and friends is always a great thrill.”
But the pro racer in Long knows it will not be easy at the popular 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit around the Long Beach Arena and Convention Center.
“Long Beach is always a tough circuit and the GT class in the Pirelli World Challenge is extremely competitive,” said Patrick. “Look at the last race at St. Petersburg. There were 14 drivers within a second in qualifying on a tight street course. And last year’s qualifying at Long Beach was extremely close. So, I know the field will be tough.”
In fact, last year’s run for the Pirelli World Challenge GT pole position had three drivers within four-hundreds of a second with defending GT champion Alvaro Parente of Portugal taking the top spot.
Long finished a close second in the final 2016 GT point standings to Parente in the last-lap battle at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Now he hopes to move into the No. 1 slot in 2017.
“Last year was an unusual racing season for me as I had to change Porsche teams in the middle of the season and we still almost won the championship,” Long explained. “Now I’m with a strong team again and I feel good about our changes for another title run. But my concentration right now is on Long Beach. I can’t wait to get back to that circuit and make a strong effort for the GT win on Sunday (April 9).
In addition to Long and Parente in the GT field at Long Beach, the stellar Pirelli World Challenge lineup will include four-time GT champion Johnny O’Connell and young star Michael Cooper in the Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. cars, Scotland’s Ryan Dalziel in a Mercedes AMG GT3, Germany’s Pierre Kaffer in a Audi R8 LMS, Spain’s Alex Riberas and Italy’s Daniel Mancinelli in Ferrari 488 GT3 machines, Netherlands’ Peter Kox in an Acura NSX GT3, Hong Kong’s Adderly Fong in a Bentley Continental GT3, and Americans Jon Fogarty in a Porsche 911 GT3 R and Ryan Eversley in an Acura NSX GT3.
Pirelli World Challenge practice gets underway at Long Beach on Friday, April 7, at 3:30 p.m. PDT with qualifying set for Saturday, April 8, at 9:10 am PDT. The 50-mintue GT Sprint feature is scheduled for Sunday, April 9, at 10:00 a.m. PDT.