PATRICK LONG: MAN ON A MISSION
Bergmeister is familiar with the Wright
squad, having filled in for Long in coaching.
Long is off to a good start in 2017,
having earned a podium and a win at St.
Petersburg, along with the championship
lead going into Round 3 at Long Beach.
A weekend like that makes a driver feel
pretty good when it comes time to
getting the job done again.
“When I show up at the race track,
I feel pretty light on my feet and have
fun with the guys, joke around a little bit,
interact with the fans,” Long says. “But
when the car rolls out onto the track,
most of [the competitive nature] is
instinct. You can see the barometer of a
racecar driver’s emotion, and when the
car is quick and the driver is hitting his
marks and they’re at the top of the board,
Patrick Long and Wright Motorsports
nearly pulled off an unlikely Pirelli
World Challenge GT title last year.
But after narrowly missing out on
glory, following the most unusual of
seasons, Long has a renewed focus
– as does the team. And much of what
will propel them into the thick of the
title chase is hard-earned experience.
“The car last year was a new
product for Porsche, so a lot of the
teams were on a steep learning
curve,” explains team principal John
Wright. “We felt like we got into a
rhythm toward the end of last season.
This year, a lot of the tracks we go to,
we’ve built a notebook, so that’s
refreshing. Last year we were just
working from our engineering
instincts, going from track to track.
“I feel like if we can run a two-year
program – although this is really just a
year-and-a-half – momentum carries
over if things were clicking and gelling
toward the end of the prior year.
That’s happening. Pat feels like we
were just about there at Laguna, and
he attacked the opening weekend this
year with that same intensity.”
Wright Motorsports gained useful
insight from Long’s development work
with the 911 GT3 in 2016, hitting the
ground running when Long joined the
team mid-season. With the likes of
reigning GT champion Alvaro Parente
back for 2017, the title won't be a
"gimme." But maintaining the
momentum from ' 16 and applying the
lessons learned might just erase the
“almost” from any description of
Long's ' 17 PWC season.
Last year's PWC GT title was decided in
favor of Alvaro Parente (ABOVE) at the
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca finale.
ROAD TO REDEMPTION
“That championship, was
snatched from us last year.
We have some unfinished
business to take care of”
for him, it’s winning for the team. He really
cares about that. That championship, I felt,
was snatched from us last year. But it's
behind us, and now we have some
unfinished business to take care of.”
And Long is zeroed in on that business.
Aside from early-season outings in the
Rolex 24 and Bathurst 12 Hour before the
Pirelli World Challenge season began, PWC
is his focus. Unlike last year, when he raced
for Porsche in the FIA World Endurance
Championship, Long is chasing no other
titles. PWC, though, is a different take from
last year; in fact, it’s three championships
– Sprint, SprintX and overall. For SprintX
events he’ll team with an old friend, Jörg
Bergmeister, with whom Long has shared
the top step of the Le Mans GT podium, a
Rolex 24 class win and the ALMS GT2 title.
“Jörg is a known quantity,” says Long.
“He pushes himself, he pushes the team,
he pushes his teammate. He’s a good
person, he’s a great spirit, but he’s also
somebody who has been driving since he
was three years old. He’s hard-wired
competitive, and that’s what you need. But
you also need someone who you trust that
represented in PWC's
headline GT class
Porsche 911 GT3
(ABOVE) will have to
beat a stacked field to
win the 2017 crown.