Patrick Long ready for first Le Mans 24H

Patrick Long ready for first Le Mans 24H

Patrick Long lines up at the head of the GT category in Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for his first outing at Le Mans. The young American driver, who finished fifth in the 2004 Daytona 24 hours and has won in...

Patrick Long lines up at the head of the GT category in Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for his first outing at Le Mans. The young American driver, who finished fifth in the 2004 Daytona 24 hours and has won in the German Porsche Cup and Formula Renault UK, took time out from his busy schedule before the start of qualifying on Thursday to talk exclusively to Motorsport.com about his Le Mans experience so far and expectations for the race.

#90 White Lightning Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR: Sascha Maassen, Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long.
Photo by Tom Haapanen.
The team's fastest time was set by Jorg Bergmeister while Sasha Maasen and Long concentrated on completing their required laps, set-up and gaining experience. "That was basically coming down to looking at the weather," Patrick explained. "We didn't know what it was going to do so we wanted to make sure and get in a banker quick lap yesterday. Jorg is very experienced and he was here at the pre-test and Sascha wasn't, so that's why Jorg had the car for a lot longer than Sascha.

"I have less than twenty laps in my whole career here so I chose to keep an eye in the background, do my three laps for qualifying and really let these guys find a smooth consistent set-up so that I can get in the car and have no doubts on what the car is doing and not have to question 'is it the car or is it me?' because I'm still at a point where I'm going around and I'm learning and trying different things so that makes it difficult to develop the car at the same time."

Team photo: White Lightning Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Sascha Maassen.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Patrick was full of respect for his team, who won the class in last year's race in conjunction with Alex Job Racing, and qualified in pole position this year by over one second. "I think the team are smart. They know first of all this is about finishing and then it is about going fast. We're not counting our chickens yet, we've got plenty of work to stay focussed on. By all means have we not left anything and the tools are still turning as we speak. The guys were here until 3am this morning and they continue to strive. That's something special about this team - they don't give up."

The car was involved in an incident late in the second part of Wednesday's qualifying and spun through at the gravel trap at the hands of Sasha Maasen, who is participating in his fourth 24 hour race at Le Mans. "That was a quick trip through the gravel," Patrick explained. "Everything is cleaned up and fine. There was no damage. It was a bias issue - we were figuring how to get the most out of the brakes and Sascha, being the most experienced driver, was the one willing to take the risks so it's good that he was able to keep it in one piece and find the limit."

#66 The Racers Group Porsche GT3 RS: Kevin Buckler, Timo Bernhard, Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Earlier in the year Patrick finished fifth at Daytona and, during the night and in damp conditions, drove to the limit to make up a deficit picked up by the team and, at times, he was the fastest driver on the circuit. Could this performance, along with the added threat of rain for the race, play into his hands here at Le Mans?

"There's always the potential but no. The straights are so much longer, the Audis are so much more of a race car than the Daytona prototype, so I think the gaps will remain as far away as they are in the dry, but I also would like to think I could get to the point where I was in Daytona of challenging for victory as far as lap time go and being consistent and smart.

"Daytona helped me on a confidence level. I know I can do a 24 hour race. I know I can run a car consistantly through the night. I know now that I can go to sleep, wake up and still perform because things like that area big apprehensions before you go into your first 24 hour race. A lot of that is laid to rest."

#90 White Lightning Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR: Sascha Maassen, Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Patrick fully appreciates and understands the chance that he has been given and respects those who have given him this opportunity. "It's not as though I'm doing the race just to say I've done Le Mans. I really believe that I'm here to help contribute to a victory and that's a special opportunity. I really do feel that some people have put a lot of trust in me to put me with guys who have done this race at least for the last two years and the team won the race last year, so I really feel as though I'm very very lucky to be here."

The full interview with Patrick Long, covering his career so far and aspirations for the future, will be published next week.

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Sascha Maassen , Kevin Buckler , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Eric Gilbert , Alex Job
Teams Alex Job Racing