Patrick Long Sweeps St. Pete in World Challenge Debut for TruSpeed Motorsport
Patrick Long recorded a weekend for the history books in Pirelli World Challenge competition at St. Petersburg, Florida, this weekend, setting pole position and claiming race victories in both sprint events on Saturday and Sunday in his #45 PrivacyStar Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. 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 #45 PrivacyStar Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car this past Thursday and meet his new team for the first time in the process. 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. Rob Morgan, driving the #46 Entrust /TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, qualified 7th for Saturday’s race, splitting the two factory Cadillac CTS-V Coupes of Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim.
Saturday, Race 1:
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 a scant 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-lap battle with Sunday’s pole sitter, Randy Pobst.
Rob Morgan had a strong race Saturday, running in 6th position at the restart. He said, “I got caught out a bit at the restart. As we came around the last turn onto the straight, I was in 2nd gear, keeping the revs up, anticipating the green flag. Patrick was leading and did a first gear restart, which I didn’t anticipate. Since first gear is so short in our 911s, normally you get a ton of wheelspin and have to grab second gear really quickly. He had a good reason for doing what he did, and the result was great for TruSpeed, but I lost a few places to cars that I was quicker than around the rest of the track.”
Rob proceed to battle through traffic and while he had contact with Patrick Lindsey in his Corvette, he avoided the accident which collected Skeen on the last lap of Saturday’s race to finish 10th, setting the 9th-fastest lap of the race and qualifying in that position for Sunday’s race.
Sunday, Race 2:
At the drop of the green flag, 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.
Rob Morgan had an eventful race as well, finishing in 6th position overall as well as in the GT class, and scored valuable championship points, with his home track at Long Beach, Calif., next on the calendar. He said, “The car was pretty good at the beginning, but definitely got a bit loose as the race went on. I had a much better restart in Sunday’s race and had a really tight battle with Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim in the Cadillacs and Tony Gaples in the Corvette. It’s great to race with such different cars because they’ve all got different strengths - I was quicker than Gaples through the corners, but he had more straightaway speed. Similarly, I was faster on the straights than O’Connell and Pilgrim, but they were quicker through the turns. At one point, you could have thrown a blanket over all four of us, but it was clean, hard racing and I don’t think any of us ever touched.”
Long 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.”
Reflecting on the weekend, Morgan said, “The deal with Patrick came together late, but I don’t think anyone could have asked for a better kickoff to the season. As a team, TruSpeed Motorsports is thrilled to have him on board, and as an owner, I’m really pleased with how well everyone jelled together. Patrick had never seen the car, much less driven it, but he went out and got the pole for the first race and then swept the weekend. I think it says a lot about our TruSpeed’s ability as a team that we’re able to put a good race car on the track.”
The #45 PrivacyStar and #46 Entrust/TruSpeed Porsches race next at the Long Beach Grand Prix, April 15-17, 2011.
- source: truspeed motorsport