Long Performs Down Under

October 25, 2011

Patrick Long made his second visit to the Australian V8 Supercars Gold Coast 600 this past weekend, leveraging his experience in the ultra-competitive series from 2010 with a new team. Long partnered with Fabian Coulthard in the #61 Bundaberg Racing Holden Commodore, switching teams from 2010 to 2011 and taking with him the experiences gained in his debut in the popular “international” drivers format of the dual-race weekend.

Race 1: Saturday
Qualifying for the V8SC Series culminates in a top-ten shootout, as the ten fastest cars from the first qualifying session blitz the circuit to determine starting order. For Saturday’s race, rain fell on the circuit just minutes before qualifying was due to start, scrambling the projected starting grid, and Long and teammate Coulthard ended up on the cusp of the shootout, in 11th position. For the race itself, all the teams opted to start their “international” drivers, and Patrick had a good standing start, picking off several cars on the first lap. Over the opening portion of his stint, Patrick had a heated battle with Boris Said but passed him going into turn four, then proceeded to hunt down Emmanuelle Pirro and Joey Hand in short order. As Long chased Hand over several laps, he kept looking for openings and finally forced an error, passing Joey headed onto the front straight. Patrick was able to press on and turn his #61 Bundaberg Racing Holden over to his teammate in 4th position, making up 7 positions on track without the aid of a caution period, and without a scratch on the car. After a clean driver change, Coulthard proceeded to pound around the dramatic street circuit at Surfer’s Paradise, climbing as high as 2nd place. As different teams’ strategies played out, the #61 opted to equip Coulthard with a fresh set of tires in a late stop. After a late caution period, Coulthard was able to bring the car home in 5th place, equalling his best result of the 2011 V8SC season, and looked likely to climb further up the standings had time not run out on the Walkinshaw Racing-run team.

Long said, “I don’t know how my stint could have worked out much better – I was pretty apprehensive taking the standing start as that wasn’t part of my duty when I ran here in 2010, but it went well and I was able to weave in between some slower-starting cars off the line. From there, the irony for me was battling hardest with some of my most familiar competition from ALMS and sportscars – Boris Said, Emmanuelle Pirro, one of my most recent rivals, Joey Hand. It was interesting that we all traveled so far and got into these strange machines, only to battle with racers we’re all so familiar with. The racing in this series is so tight, and with a soft tire that is so different to what the Supercars ran on in 2010, the strategy is very much about biding your time and picking your move. It’s so easy to damage the tire through abuse and pushing so hard. Fabian did a great job at the end of race one to charge through the field – it was definitely a highlight to their season and great to be a part of it.

Race 2, Sunday
On Sunday, the #61 Bundaberg Racing Holden started 15th, and the team was confident that the car was set up well for the length of a stint relative to tire wear, but were struggling early in the life of new tires. Long again took the standing start and while he had a better launch than in Saturday’s race, was balked by Augusto Farfus just after the green flag. Patrick was able to swing wide and narrowly miss Farfus’ slowed car, despite being hemmed in on the outside by a charging Jan Magnussen. Later in the first lap, Magnussen had a coming-together with Christian Klein, and Long was able to slip past his longtime teammate and friend Jörg Bergmeister on the restart, then set off in pursuit of a group including Alex Tagliani, Marc Lieb, Simon Pagenaud and Boris Said. Long worked his way from 15th to 7th in his stint, and turned the car over to Coulthard. Fabian had an issue getting his belts secured, which caused the team to lose several places under green. The team elected to try a similar strategy to Saturday’s race, pitting Coulthard for fresh tires near the end of the race, but no caution period was forthcoming, causing the team’s gamble to fall short.

Patrick said, “Race 2 started in familiar territory, as I was battling with Jan Magnussen and Jörg. It’s never easy when you have to remind yourself that as an endurance driver your job is to hand the car over to your teammate in good shape, not go for broke and endanger the car for the sake of a friendly rivalry. Having said that, passing Jörg was the highlight of my day, and we laughed about it together after the race.”

He continued, “I really had a great time on the back of what was a very, very tough week. We all did what Dan Wheldon would have wanted, and I was blown away by how much honor and respect the whole Australian motorsport community showed. It was a celebration of who Dan was, and that was well appreciated. All in all, a great trip, and I can’t wait to get back there next year!”

All photos © Bundaberg Racing/ inetpics.com