Long Beach Recap

April 18, 2011

Patrick Long had a simultaneously satisfying and frustrating weekend at the 2011 Long Beach Grand Prix. Having qualified 4th in GT for the American Le Mans Series race on Saturday, he managed to battle his way into the lead in front of his hometown crowd in his stint in the race before losing traction and hitting the outside wall on the driver’s side of his #45 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, causing suspension damage which forced the retirement of the car.

He said, “Our ALMS race was extremely disappointing. It was a perfect storm of events that took place, the result of which was a DNF, and that’s gutting. I had a good start to the race, and was mixing it up well with the #56 BMW and #3 Corvette – I eventually made it into the lead. There was the challenge of trying to get past Scott Sharp’s lapped Ferrari, and as I tried to get around him, I ran off-line through two corners, which caused a lot of debris pickup on my tires. I should have known better than to try to brake in my normal spot having driven through so much debris, but with pressure from behind, it was too risky a strategy to be over-conservative and not try to get around Sharp. I just got caught out by a street course mistake. At any other racetrack, that would have been two wheels dropped into the dirt and not that big a deal, but this weekend, it was game over. It was a bit of a snakebit weekend, but Long Beach is still one of my favorite places to race.”

Coming off a highly successful sweep of the double-header season opener of the Pirelli World Challenge at St. Petersburg, FL, Patrick immediately made an impression on the field by topping the time sheets in first practice in his #45 PrivacyStar Porsche 911 Cup Car. Despite a 127lbs. “success ballast” added to his car to level the playing field among the GT cars, Long was also able to set a new track record in qualfying for Sunday’s race, claiming his second pole position of the year in World Challenge competition. Starting from the pole, Long was passed by three cars on the long run down to turn one, but as the leaders picked up the back of the back within several laps, he was able to gain position and climb to 3rd. Unfortunately, he was called into the pits to serve a stop-and-go penalty for jumping the start, though he gained no advantage from his mistake at the drop of the green flag. After he served his penalty, Patrick found himself at the back of the pack at 16th in the GT class, and charged through three classes of traffic to claim 5th place by the end of the race. After three rounds of the championship, Patrick continues to be the points leader.

“The World Challenge race was pretty difficult. At the starting line, my dash display showed that I was in neutral when I put it in gear. That’s dangerous in a standing start, because if you can’t get your car in gear, you risk causing a massive pile-up as the field accelerates towards you, so I slowly released the clutch to make sure first gear engaged. Unfortunately, that’s outside the rules, and it was lesson learned the hard way for me. After my penalty, I came out 12th in class, but was able to use traffic to close the gaps and regain positions. It was a very rare race, because there were no caution periods, so that hurt us a bit, but the car was handling excellent, and very consistent. I’d have thought we could have won, which is frustrating. The good news is, despite missing the next round at Miller, we get some weight removed from the car, and I still believe I can win the championship. The TruSpeed guys have put a great car under me.”

The Pirelli World Challenge Series races next at Miller Motorsports Park outside Salt Lake City, UT April 29 – May 1, and the American Le Mans Series enters its annual break for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Patrick’s team assignment for Le Mans will be announced shortly.