Skip Barber trained Patrick Long scored a fine victory in the wet at Knockhill Racing Circuit in Scotland earlier this week to capture the lead for this year's prestigious Slick 50 British Formula Ford Zetec Championship. The Californian is in his first season racing for the factory Van Diemen team.
Long, 1999 Rookie of the Year in the hotly contested Formula Dodge Western Regional Series, started fourth on the grid after qualifying was held in the dry, but was in the lead by the end of the opening lap.
"Starting from fourth on a tight track wasn't going to make it easy," noted Long, "but I knew if it rained it would give me a slightly better opportunity. Rain is always a great equalizer. It tends to increase braking distances, of course, and it puts more of a premium on traction and being smooth, so I was very optimistic when I got up on Sunday morning and saw the weather."
Long made a good start and moved up to second place at the very first corner with a bold move around the outside, displacing two drivers. Only the third factory Van Diemen driver and early-season championship leader lay ahead, but Long quickly addressed that situation with another impressive pass, this time on the inside under braking, at the final hairpin.
Long then edged away into a slight lead as the others scrabbled for position in his wake.
"My two main rivals were battling behind me, so that was just what I needed," said Long.
Even better, two cars later made contact, forcing his hottest pursuer out of the race and relegating another to a distant 15th.
Two full-course cautions kept Long on his toes, but the 20-year-old from Oak Park, Calif., was able to maintain his position and secure his third win of the season. br> "My car was quite good through the entry and midpoint of the corners, so I was in good shape."
Long emerges with a 13-point margin over his closest competitor in the championship hunt with three races remaining.
"To be leading the championship is almost overwhelming," said an excited Long. "I know there's no way I can become complacent, I just have to keep working hard. It feels like I'm on top of the junior motorsport world, and hopefully this will help me move up to the next level next year."