Patrick Long puts together sensational 2017 GT season for PWC overall and sprint championships
Porsche veteran driver takes Wright Motorsports Porsche GT3 R to the titles
Austin, Tex. – Patrick Long entered the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge road racing campaign with redemption on his mind. In the previous year, the veteran Porsche racer from Manhattan Beach, Calif., lost the prestigious GT title on the last lap of the final race of the season.
Unusual circumstances on that final circuit at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca took Long from a potential title run to a tough runner-up finish with just six turns remaining in the PWC series last year.
But Long, the 2011 PWC GT champion, set his sights on all three GT championships in 2017 with the Sprint, SprintX and Overall crowns up for grabs in his No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. And he came close to scoring all three titles by the final GT weekend at Sonoma Raceway.
In the 19 GT Sprint and GT SprintX events, Long collected four wins, six runner-ups and three third-places in his trek to the Overall championship over Cadillac’s Michael Cooper, the 2017 SprintX champion, and McLaren’s Alvaro Parente, the 2016 GT champion. In addition to the two GT titles, Long led his Wright Motorsports effort to the GT team honors and Porsche to the Manufacturers crown.
“I'm very proud to close out the Sprint Championship and the team championship Sunday at Sonoma Raceway,” said Long, 35. “For the fans, with multiple championships, it was important to capitalize on trying to secure as many championships as possible to leave a stamp on 2017 after quite an eventful 2016. My second championship has been a bit of a long wait but certainly it's much sweeter because the PWC championship has a ton of factory teams and drivers in it. It really is evolving and it's a proud moment for me to race against some of these guys that have huge CVs and respect internationally in sportscars.”
The fans want diversity. They want to see their favorite car up there and know that every weekend they have a shot at winning.
Patrick’s quest for the Overall GT series title began in the opening weekend with a strong performance in the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. with a victory and third place in the GT doubleheader. He also recorded wins in the GT race at Road America and two SprintX events (two-driver, 60-minute feature) at Lime Rock Park (with Mark Lieb) and Circuit of the Americas (COTA with Jörg Bergmeister).
But it might have been Long’s other nine podium finishes that help take him to the coveted GT honors.
"I found a championship that was stripped out of my hands in the last half lap last year based on some errors from a car ahead of me,” said Long regarding the 2016 season finale. “I made a decision to play it a little bit safe through the mid-race and let the doors stay open for me in the last weekend this time. Any given Sunday you can have a different winner and I think that's unique for Pirelli World Challenge. I love being here. I've raced a lot of different championships for Porsche and I really have found a home here. To be a champion overall, it's been a long wait since we had our last championship in 2011.”
After competing in a variety of sports car series around the world, Long returned to the Pirelli World Challenge in 2016 and nearly scored his second PWC title despite racing for two separate operations. In 2017, things were more consistent for Patrick with his small but impressive Wright Motorsports team against some of the best sports car racers in the world.
“We all have stories to tell about adversity and attrition, especially through SprintX, which was new this year and caught a lot of us off guard with how much battling and contact there was with drivers that may not have been in the full championship,” Long admitted. “But that's what makes the fans turn out for the race. All over the world they talk about Europe racers being aggressive, but I would say the first lap in GT racing makes for a scenario where you have to tune in every weekend because you can't even guess the scenarios that are going to play out.”
In addition to capturing the GT Overall and Sprint championships, Long also placed third in the final SprintX points.
Long is no stranger with multi-driver lineups in endurance racing and this year marked first time the SprintX format would be included in the Overall GT series. Patrick had to compromise with his Porsche’s chassis setup to assist his teammates in the ten SprintX contests.
“My second championship has been a bit of a long wait but certainly it's much sweeter because the championship has a ton of factory teams and drivers,” Long said. “It really is evolving and it's a proud moment for me to race against some of these guys that I respect internationally in sportscars. Being a factory driver for Porsche the last 15 years has been a gift for me. I have raced in 17 different countries and 10 separate sports car championships with almost every version of a Porsche 911.
“So, I appreciate being a little closer to home now with the Pirelli World Challenge as my focus and having U.S.-based racing. I love the fact that I can race at North American venues that I wished to compete in as a kid like Long Beach, Sonoma, Road America, Mid-Ohio and others. I have found a home here and the Wright Motorsports group has been very family-oriented and a fun operation to be a part of this year.”
The Wright Motorsports organization has been a leading Porsche effort for numerous years but took on the teams with much bigger budgets to pull off a spectacular 2017 Pirelli World Challenge season.
“There's a team behind me in Wright Motorsport who has put a lot on the line,” said Long. “We're a small organization and we push hard as a single pro entry against some big, manufacturer-backed, multiple-car entries. So, we're proud of Porsche's customer service to get guys like Wright Motorsports and GMG Racing (James Sofronas who won two PWC classes in 2017) up here battling some seriously big manufacturers. Since I joined them in 2002, Porsche has been all about customer racing. I think they set a high bar.
“Before GT3 and the globalization of GT, they were focused on producing a race-ready product and I think they're still doing that even though you look up and see a huge percentage of manufacturers who are focused on customer racing. So, it's hard to have that target on your back but we're proud to fly that flag.”
Diversity of auto manufacturers in the Pirelli World Challenge has not gone unnoticed by drivers such as Long and his peers.
“Pirelli World Challenge had several events this year with nine different manufacturers in the top ten,” he explained. “This is what we want. It's awesome to see. The fans want diversity. They want to see their favorite car up there and know that every weekend they have a shot at winning.”
Now, Long prepares to defend his Pirelli World Challenge GT championships as the 2018 series approaches. But it will be tough to top what the personable racer produced in 2017.
Pirelli World Challenge
Cadillac pulls out of Pirelli World Challenge
PWC completes 10-round 2018 schedule with Watkins Glen finale