PETERSEN/WHITE LIGHTNING'S LONG LOVES LIFE AT LE MANS Braselton, Ga. - When Patrick Long arrives at Le Mans, he'll do so with one of the most coveted titles in all of sports car racing: Defending champion. The soon-to-be 24-year-old will team...
PETERSEN/WHITE LIGHTNING'S LONG LOVES LIFE AT LE MANS
Braselton, Ga. - When Patrick Long arrives at Le Mans, he'll do so with one of the most coveted titles in all of sports car racing: Defending champion.
The soon-to-be 24-year-old will team with Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard in the No. 90 Petersen/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the LM GT2 class for the 73rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The world's most famous sports car race is set for June 18-19 at La Sarthe in the south region of France.
The addition of Bernhard to the lineup means all three Petersen pilots own Le Mans GT2 championships: Long and Bergmeister in 2004 and Bernhard in 2002.
Having been to Le Mans three different times as a spectator, and living there for one year, Long wasn't as overwhelmed as he expected to be his first time as a competitor.
"But Le Mans is a much more technical track than I originally thought," he said. "I think I will pick up where I left off (last year), getting in my laps and dealing with the track from an aggression standpoint."
Long and the Petersen/White Lightning team will be up against 14 total ALMS entrants at Le Mans and a number of potent GT2 teams. They include Alex Job Racing/British American Motorsport (BAM!), Flying Lizard Motorsports and Panoz Motor Sports, among others.
"What separates Le Mans from every other race are a number of different factors," Long said, "notably the schedule during the week. That is definitely unique. You really have to prepare yourself to waking up at 3 a.m. and then getting right into the car."
Teams practice mostly at night, "and during the day, you're not doing a lot," he added. "Going around the circuit at night is so challenging. It's so dark and so fast. You come to rely on timing more than your eyes, and I know I can improve my timing from the last time I was there."
The number of spectators, both day and night, is something first-time Le Mans drivers won't appreciate until they arrive, Long said. "The history of Le Mans really hits you when you go there for the first time, but it is the spectators who make this the event that it is. They are so passionate about the sport, and so knowledgeable about each driver. They know each driver's story, how many times they've (run) there. It is amazing."
Long points out an aspect often underestimated by the racing public. "Le Mans is every bit a mental battle as a physical battle. You always have to keep that in mind. Twenty-four hours is a long time, and stuff's not always going to go your way. The teams that win will be the teams that win the mental battle first."
The Petersen/White Lightning entry competes this year as one of the GT2 favorites. That's fine with Long. "We have a good car, good drivers and a good team, so all the ingredients are in place. I now know what to expect, and I feel I can drive there as well as anyone."
The 24 Hours of Le Mans will be broadcast on SPEED Channel starting at 10 a.m. EDT June 18. The next race for the American Le Mans Series is the New England Grand Prix, set for 3 p.m. July 4 at Lime Rock Park. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED (3 to 6 p.m. EDT) and on MotorsTV in Europe, reaching 40 million viewers in 21 countries as well as at www.americanlemans.com.