Long Owns the Weekend at Laguna

September 18, 2011

Patrick Long had perhaps his best racing weekend of the 2011 season at Laguna Seca this weekend, breaking his string of bad luck in ALMS racing with a hard-fought win on Saturday and clinching his first Pirelli World Challenge Driver’s Championship Sunday. Long has had a great deal of success at Laguna Seca over the years – including three consecutive wins in the annual 6 Hour ALMS race there.

First ALMS Win of 2011
Long and teammate Jörg Bergmeister put an end to their season-long run of bad luck in the American Le Mans Series with a thrilling and hard-fought win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Having qualified 5th, Long and his teammate battled through a tense and very fast-paced six hour race, exchanging the lead with the Nos. 55 and 56 BMWs and No. 62 Ferrari throughout. As the race’s caution periods came and went, the Flying Lizard team was able to use stellar pit work and strategy to stay near the front, and a final caution period left Bergmeister with just 6 minutes remaining to work his way from p3 toward the lead. On the final restart, Bergmeister and the No. 62 Ferrari used traffic to their advantage as they swept past the then-leading No. 56 BMW, and with less than 500 feet left on the final lap, Bergmeister was able to pass the Ferrari as it had a fuel bobble, sealing the Lizards’ first race win of 2011, and third consecutive win at the 6 Hours of Laguna Seca.

Patrick said, “During Jörg’s opening stint, there was rough driving right from the start, and we laid back, choosing to let the officials handle the consequences. When things didn’t calm down, we just tried to stay on the track, race hard, and be there at the end, and we put ourselves in position to win with the right amount of fuel, good tires, and a fast car.”

“The middle of the race was classic GT racing – I spent over an hour battling the two BMWs who had a lot of straight line peformance. Our strength was traffic – we were able to manage the traffic and put the traction down. Our strategy was to make sure we had a car that could go to the end and thanks to Joerg’s driving at the end we were able to do that and still come out on the top of the podium.”

Long and Flying Lizard will conclude the 2011 ALMS season on Saturday, October 1 at the 10-hour Petit Le Mans, at Road Atlanta.

2011 Pirelli World Challenge Champion
Patrick clinched the GT and overall driver’s championship in the World Challenge series with a 5th place finish in Sunday’s round 11. With four wins in the first 10 rounds of the championship – despite missing the Miller Motorsports Park round in May – Long was saddled with the maximum “success” ballast of 200lbs. heading into round 11, and qualified 6th. Patrick had a fairly straightforward race to 5th at Laguna, staying clear of an early incident that caused a lengthy caution period. His closest competitor in the championship, James Sofronas, spun on the penultimate lap, giving Patrick a clear path to the championship.

He said, “It’s definitely exciting to win a championship in a completely different format and series than I’m used to. If you look back at our season, we were pretty close to a model of consistency. What won us the championship was consistent performance, and that’s down to the guys in the team working unbelievably hard at the shop and at the track. It’s been a very enjoyable season for me, and it’s been nothing but hard racing at a big variety of venues. The style of racing – the sprint format and standing starts – has been different and I’ve had to become familiar with a bunch of new drivers.”

“It’s been great to have Rob and Tyler to bounce ideas off of, and I have to thank Rob and Charles Morgan, PrivacyStar and Entrust for the chance this season. It’s a cool way to lock up the championship with one race to go, so we can go to Road Atlanta without pressure. We’ll still give it our all, but tonight we’ll celebrate a little.”

Patrick races next at Road Atlanta, on September 30 – October 2, for the 10-hour Petit Le Mans.