Our friend Patrick Long, Porsche’s lone American factory driver since 2004, captured this season’s Pirelli World Challenge title. Driving the no. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R, Long won three races on his way to winning both the series’ Overall and Sprint driver’s championships.
The championship adds to his long list of accomplishments behind the wheel of Porsches, including three American Le Mans championships, two Pirelli World Challenge championships and two victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After the season’s final race weekend at Sonoma, we sat down with Pat to talk about his season.
Among everything you’ve accomplished in your career, where does this PWC championship stack up?
It’s high on the list, because on any given weekend there were 10 cars that could win the race. The depth of the field is really where things have progressed since my prior 2011 Pirelli World Challenge championship. It was a different era then; the cars were all from different rulebooks. In that era success ballast was how the series managed performance so the racing was much more strategic and no one was allowed to dominate. But back to 2017 – the sweetest part was moving past the dramatic finish to 2016’s season where we were punted by a non-championship contender on the last lap!
How has the level of competition changed since the 2011 season?
Factory support- and Sprint-X! (the one-hour races in which Long shared his Porsche with fellow factory driver Jorg Bergmeister) Multiple driver formats for half the races offered a level of strategy and wildcard.
Despite your busy schedule, you still spend time working with young drivers and doing some coaching.
In this time in my career, racing has me on the road almost 200 days a year so I don’t have the ability to get out to the track as often to coach and give back to the sport. So the use of simulators is a huge asset because I can work with a driver remotely. Sims these days allow me to discuss new tracks and driving styles of specific versions of the 911 with Pro-Am drivers. There are a lot of tools that I can use without getting on an airplane.
What kind of techniques can you work on in the simulator?
You can work on things like trail braking technique, or getting a sample of a car that is on a DOT tire versus a slick. The tire models are much more realistic now. The physicality of the car can be simulated by the Motion Pro II, and you can experiment with traction control and ABS. I’m not looking for them to relate 100% to how it will feel on the track, but I’m trying to talk them through the mindset of those situations and have them apply it right away – it’s an exercise. It’s like giving a presentation and having multimedia – you are giving someone a visual aid to help articulate what you are explaining.
Will you come by and race with us more often, or will you be busy again in 2018?
Both I hope! The goal is to have 2018 be a replay of 2017, starting at Daytona and Bathurst, Le Mans in the middle and Petit Le Mans at the end – along with a hopeful defense of the Pirelli World Challenge honors.
Follow Patrick on twitter and Instagram (@plmotorsport)