Road Atlanta II: Patrick Long debuts in series

BRASELTON, Ga. - Continuing his ascent as one of America's premier international racing drivers, Patrick Long of Oak Park, Calif., will make his debut in American Le Mans Series competition by racing with one of the top teams in the series in the...

BRASELTON, Ga. - Continuing his ascent as one of America's premier international racing drivers, Patrick Long of Oak Park, Calif., will make his debut in American Le Mans Series competition by racing with one of the top teams in the series in the Oct. 15-18 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

Long, 22, will be part of an All-California team in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS fielded by The Racers Group of Sonoma, Calif., in the 1,000-mile sports car endurance race. His co-drivers will be Cort Wagner of Pacific Palisades, Calif., the 1999 GT class champion in the American Le Mans Series, and team owner Kevin Buckler of Novato, Calif., a multi-time ALMS race winner and the GT class winner in the 2002 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Petit Le Mans will close the 2003 American Le Mans Series season.

"Joining The Racers Group team for the Petit Le Mans is a great opportunity for me to continue my Porsche racing experience," Long said. "Endurance racing will be new to me, but I'm looking forward to learning a new skill and helping the team score a podium finish. Also, it'll be great to race in America again, particularly in the ALMS, which has done such a good job promoting sports car racing in America."

Though born and raised in America, Long has raced in Europe the past six years and spent the 2003 season living in Germany and driving sports cars for the prestigious UPS Porsche Junior team, the first non-German driver ever to be selected. As a rookie in the German Carrera Cup championship, Long finished seventh in the championship standings, scoring a win on the Norisring street circuit in Germany. He also drove in the Michelin Supercup Series, a support series for all Formula One events, and raced on some of the world's premier circuits.

Long drove his first go kart at age six, was racing by age eight and won his first championship at age 10. Over the next six years, he captured state and national titles and made his European debut by finishing second in the Belgian junior championship.

His career accelerated after he won the 1998 Winter Cup in Italy, becoming the first American to win an international karting event in Europe in more than two decades. That triggered one of the most impressive winning streaks in karting history, with Long winning 15 major races in a row in the sport's elite class, Formula A. He stepped into formula cars in 1999 and continued climbing the ladder, driving for the Van Diemen works team in British Formula Ford in 2001 and then racing and winning in British Formula Renault in 2002, leading to his German ride for 2003.

Long's rise has captured the attention of some of racing's top names, including former Formula One World Champion Keke Rosberg and former F1 racer Stefan Johansson, who now drives in the ALMS in selected races and owns a two-car CART Champ Car team.

"Patrick is one of the finest American racers to come to Europe in a long time," said Rosberg.

"Patrick is a talented driver who knows how to drive to the front and is very presentable," said Johansson, who will be at Road Atlanta as a third driver with the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 team. "He's a bright young star."

Joining The Racers Group puts Long with a team that has an impressive record, especially in long-distance races. In addition to two GT class wins in American Le Mans Series competition in 2002, the team won the GT class at Le Mans in its first attempt that year and also was the GT class winner in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Earlier this year, Buckler led the team to an unprecedented overall win in the Daytona event.

"I'm very excited about adding Patrick Long to our driver's lineup for Petit Le Mans," said Buckler. "Pat's success in Supercup and Carrera Cup speaks for itself, and adding the strength of a Porsche factory driver to our team should give us a real chance to compete for the victory at this year's Petit. Our guys are getting ready for the race, and they're relentlessly preparing already. We want to wrap up this season with a strong performance, and start getting ready for next year."

The Petit Le Mans will get the green flag at 11:30 a.m. (ET) on Saturday, Oct. 18. Practice, qualifying and support series races will be held beginning Wednesday, Oct. 15. Ticket information is available from Road Atlanta by calling 1-800-849-7223 or online at www.roadatlanta.com.

Live television coverage of the event on the SPEED Channel begins with a pre-race show at 11 a.m. (ET). The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have a live broadcast online at www.americanlemans.com.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Stefan Johansson , Kevin Buckler , Patrick Long , Keke Rosberg , Cort Wagner