Patrick Long will launch his defense of his American Le Mans Series GT class Driver's Championship at the Mobil One 12 Hours of Sebring this weekend, returning to race the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with longtime teammate Jörg Bergmeister. A two-time defending driver's champion, Long will seek to go for his third consecutive title in an even more intensely competitive GT class this season. With the advent of paddle shifters in the GT class - replacing the more traditional manual-sequential gearboxes - many are anticipating increased speeds among the Porsches, Ferraris, BMWs, Corvettes, Lamborghinis, Ford GT40s and Jaguars that comprise the class. Sebring is also the opening round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Challenge (ILMC), a global championship organized by the ACO, the organization responsible for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Long said, "I realize we've all been saying it every year, but the competitive bar only gets higher each year in the American Le Mans Series. At the beginning of last year, we didn't expect to win the championship, but through excellent teamwork and great equipment, the Lizard boys delivered. This year, we fully expect every race to be a dogfight; the BMWs and Corvettes are looking even quicker, and Ferrari's got a new car that looks to be a force to be reckoned with. It's a huge challenge to race in the ALMS, but we all love the competition. We've been hard at work since mid-January in Sebring, we've had quite a few successful tests, and this week is a bookend to a long few months of development and preparation. Sebring is one of the most demanding endurance races in the world, and the competition is only one element of how tough the race will be. There's a huge entry list for the race this weekend, so it'll be a pretty hectic race, but it's all part of our sport. We're confident, but I'm hungry to get back to the top step of the podium. This race has eluded us as a group and me personally since 2005, so it's time to go get a win."