Patrick Long and Jörg Bergmeister teamed to take a spectacular victory at the Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach Saturday, after Long drove a blistering stint and raised himself from 3rd in class to 1st with two well-executed passes. Bergmeister started the race in the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, fought through intense traffic and handed the car off to Patrick in 4th.
Heavy traffic – a record 36 entries started the race on the tight, sinuous street course – was a major factor in every team’s race. During the race’s only round of pit stops, the two BMW M3s of Rahal Letterman Racing opted not to take fresh tires. Flying Lizard’s strategists showed extreme confidence in their over-the-wall mechanics, and their gamble paid off as Long beat the previously leading Falken Porsche and 2nd placed Risi Ferrari out of the pits, giving him fresh tires to chase down the now-leading BMW duo. Within two laps, Long had passed Joey Hand for 2nd position, and with 10 minutes left in the race, passed Tommy Milner for the lead.
The victory makes it five consecutive podium finishes for Patrick at Long Beach, and two straight wins. Bergmeister and Long are now tied for the GT championship lead with Jaime Melo and Gimmi Bruni of Risi Ferrari; Patrick and Jörg have now amassed 16 ALMS victories together. The # 45 Porsche also won the Michelin Green X Challenge for the GT entry operating at the highest efficiency with the lowest environmental impact.
Patrick said, “Winning at Long Beach is just an unbelievable result. It’s always spectacular racing at my home track, where I’ve been coming since I was a kid. There’s just something about the energy and the vibe that make it such a special race. The second half of the race started with the Lizard boys absolutely nailing it in the pits – we left nothing on the table with that effort. We were able to overtake the Falken Porsche, the Risi Ferrari and the leading Corvette in the pits. From there, it was about getting past the BMWs, who were very quick on the straight but didn’t take tires in their pit stop.”
He continued, “In the end, I got past Joey Hand in traffic to get into 2nd, and had to make an aggressive move on Tommy Milner to take the lead. Then I was able to pull clear, and by the time the Corvette had got past Milner’s BMW, I was far enough down the track that he wasn’t able to catch me before the checkered flag. We’re excited to be tied for the championship now, and all in all, it was just a fantastic weekend. I’m looking forward to being at the LMS race at Spa in Belgium here in a couple of weeks, and then of course up to Laguna Seca for round 3 of the ALMS.”
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Photos courtesy © Rick Dole 2010