Le Mans Debrief

June 26, 2008

Patrick Long experienced the high highs and low lows of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2008. From setting pole position and collecting a GT2-class lap record to finding himself out of the race in his second stint, Patrick had a decidedly up and down race week.

“The experience we had in qualifying — setting the pole and a lap record — was an awesome and very rewarding time. Unlike most other races, where qualifying happens within a day or even a few hours of the race, at Le Mans you have the added time of Friday’s day off to sort of soak it in a bit and enjoy the moment. The race couldn’t have gone further from planned — at the last minute before the start, the ACO [sanctioning body of Le Mans] relegated us to the back of the GT2 field for a fueling violation. The ACO Is very particular in what you can and can’t do before a race, based on safety. Unfortunately, we were demoted to the rear of the grid, and instead of getting upset about it, I tried to just get focused on the start and being safe. The first few laps of Le Mans is an opportune time to take advantage of no traffic and clean air, find your pace and set the tone for the race. My first stint was good, I got safely through the pack and got up to 3rd, closing the gap to my two main rivals. Just at about the one hour mark, I turned the car over to my teammate Richard.”

American Porsche factory driver Patrick Long captured the GT2 pole position at Le Mans on Thursday. Photo: Regis Lefebure

American Porsche factory driver Patrick Long captured the GT2 pole position at Le Mans on Thursday. Photo © Regis Lefebure

“The team”s plan for the first quarter of the race was to alternate between Richard and me to try to establish a firm hold on the first few positions in class, knowing that some of our opposition had an all-pro lineup of drivers. Although our teammate Raymond, for only having a few years of driving experience, is a true talent and is very close on pace, he and the team decided to leave the young pros in at the start to alternate stints for the first quarter of the race.”

“Just as I jumped back in, past the two hour mark, I was on my out lap and came up on two GT cars jostling for position when all hell broke loose at 200mph. On the straight line decent to the Indianapolis/ Arnage section, the fastest corner on the circuit, I was trying to avoid one of the cars which had unexpectedly jumped on the brakes. My attempt to weave miss him meant that we both ended up in the gravel trap with damaged cars. The details are all subjective and a matter of perspective, but I take final responsibility in that I was the faster car approaching. The fact of the matter was that the high rate of speed we were racing at left a very fine line between a small adjustment in line and speed and a catastrophic crash. If it were any other track that we race on it would have been a near miss at worse. It’s anything but an excuse, just a true reflection of what makes Le Mans, Le Mans!”

“It was pretty hard to come back to the pits on foot, I was just gutted because I knew how much potential we had — how much time, effort and money had gone into the preparation. This is the first time I’ve recorded a DNF at Le Mans, and the first time I’ve failed to bring the car back to the pits since starting my career in endurance sportscar racing in 2003.”

“It was hard to digest, but my teammates from IMSA and Porsche couldn’t have been more understanding in relating to what had happened out on the track. In the end, it was the high highs and low lows. I had an extremely spectacular Le Mans in 2008, but at the end, the wild and exciting tempo challenges of this sport are what fuels my passion.”

Immediately after Le Mans, Patrick has returned to America for extensive tests with Penske at Road America and Mid Ohio. The next race for the Patrick and the #6 Penske Porsche RS Spyder will be at Lime Rock Park, July 11–12, in Lakeville, CT.