St. Pete Sweep

March 28, 2011

Patrick Long made an historic debut for TruSpeed Motorsports in the Pirelli World Challenge Series this weekend in St. Petersburg, FL, claiming pole position and two race wins in the #45 PrivacyStar Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car. Fresh from a grueling multi-day test at Germany’s famed Nürburgring, Long sped across the state of Florida in a rental car so that he would have time to get acclimated to his new car and meet his new team for the first time this past Thursday. With no testing and only two scant practice sessions, Long captured pole position for Saturday’s race, despite a tire puncture on his first lap of the qualifying session. Patrick recorded a fast lap of 1:15.071 in the dying moments of qualifying.

For Saturday’s race, the first standing-start Long had done since his only previous World Challenge start in 2006, he was out-dragged into turn one by the all-wheel drive Volvo of 2010 Series Champion Randy Pobst. Due to the 49-car entry, speed differential among the three classes of cars and tight confines of the St. Pete street circuit, Pobst and Long caught the back of the field in three laps. Using traffic to his advantage, Long was able to squeeze past Pobst for the lead and pull out a gap prior to a prolonged caution period, caused by three cars wrecking. By the time the extended caution period was over, only eight minutes of the race remained, and on the restart, Patrick pulled away cleanly, with the Corvette of Mike Skeen following.

“Mike was running very strong and certainly keeping me honest,” Long said. “As we came into the back of the traffic on the last lap, the black S2000 lost it coming out of the first of the double rights in the back session. I missed him narrowly, literally by inches, and unfortunately that left Mike with a blocked racetrack and I was able to just slither through. It was unfortunate for him, good for us, and that’s what it’s all about with multiple classes.”

Taking the win, Long recorded TruSpeed Motorsports’ first victory in World Challenge competition. As a result of his 2nd-fastest race lap, Patrick started Sunday’s race from the outside of row one, setting up another first-corner drag race with Sunday’s pole-sitter, Randy Pobst.

At the start of Sunday’s race, Long was hindered by the extra 75lbs. of “success” ballast added to the car from his Saturday win, and was out-dragged into turn one by James Sofronas, in his Porsche 911 Cup Car, and Randy Pobst in his AWD Volvo. As the lead group caught slower GTS and TC-class traffic, both Sofronas and Long were able to pass Pobst, having a spirited battle before the race’s only caution period paused the action for a number of laps. At the restart, Sofronas pulled away as Long gave chase, but the leaders again caught slower traffic. After a series of close moments, Long was able to pass Sofronas for the lead with just one-and-a-half laps left in the race. By holding Sofronas off for the final lap, Long completed his clean sweep of the race weekend in St. Pete, giving TruSpeed an historic result.

Patrick commented, “What an unbelievable way to kick off the season. Both races were very challenging, but had a different feel. Saturday was about finding my way past Randy Pobst and then sprinting home after an extended caution, but Sunday’s race was intense and challenging altogether. The 75lbs. of added “success” ballast caught me off-guard at the start, and after that it was about conserving tires and biding my time in traffic. We didn’t have the fastest car in Sunday’s race, so I had to be crafty and strategic. I made my final move for the lead with two laps to go, then it was an all-out charge to the end. It’s been an epic way to come back into World Challenge and start off the relationship and partnership with TruSpeed. We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us, but as racers, that’s what makes us tick – there’s still room to improve. The Series is wild! It’s got a different look and feel to what I’m used to. I like the traffic, the strategy and that the fastest car might not always come out on top. On Sunday, James Sofronas drove a great race, and it was great to battle with him cleanly. I have lots of respect for him.”

Patrick next races the #45 PrivacyStar Porsche GT3 Cup Car in World Challenge competition April 15-17, 2011 on the streets of Long Beach, CA. Television coverage of the dual races at St. Pete will be broadcast on Versus on Saturday, April 9 at 4:30 p.m. ET.