AUSTIN, Texas. – Patrick Long’s racing résumé in the last decade rivals any American sports car driver.
The California native has won multiple 24 Hours of LeMans titles, three American LeMans crowns, the Endurance Driver’s Cup, two 12 Hours of Sebring races and the 24 Hours of Daytona. In fact, he won the Pirelli World Challenge GT championship in 2011, the last time he ran the full PWC sports car season.
He even won his class in the legendary Baja 1000 off-road race in 2013.
The factory Porsche racer from Manhattan Beach, Calif., has competed around the world and captured races in nearly every continent in which he has driven. It is quite a racing résumé.
Now, Long, 34, comes back to the Pirelli World Challenge in 2016 and he knows things have changed since his last PWC title in 2011. Patrick will team with young star Michael Lewis in the very competitive Houston-based EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 operation.
“I’m excited to see how the series has evolved since 2011,” said Long, who recently became a father for first time in 2015. “The biggest challenges will be the level of competition and integrating into a new team quickly. I’m anxious to get back to the sprint format too. It’s flat out racing with a stacked field in the GT division. I’ve seen the GT lineup for 2016. It will be tough battle. But with the new little one (son) in our family, it will be nice to race in the U.S. more too.”
Long takes over an EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 seat which saw veteran Ryan Dalziel drive to three victories in 2015 and finish third in the GT standings.
Long and Lewis will be competing in new Porsche 911 GT R for EFFORT Racing and team technical director Stefan Pfeiffer is thrilled to be working with the two California racers.
“Patrick is a great guy and racer to have on board this year in the Pirelli World Challenge,” said Pfeiffer. “He has collected so much experience that he is a high value to the team on and off the track. And we want Michael to continue to develop the same speed and direction he did in 2015. With Patrick as a teammate, we believe Michael will definitely improve this year.”
Long knows the level of the GT category has made major strides since he won the crown in 2011.
The PWC GT field is packed with strong manufacturer contingents like Ferrari, Porsche, Cadillac, McLaren, Acura, Bentley and others as well as drivers such as Johnny O’Connell (the four-time GT champion), Jon Fogarty, Alvaro Parente, Ryan Eversley, Colin Thompson, Michael Cooper, Andrew Palmer and other respected competitors.
“Johnny has won every GT title (2012-15) since I won my championship in 2011,” said Long. “I’m well aware that this year’s GT category will not be easy to capture. But that is why we go racing, to compete against the best. The 2016 PWC season will be a great one for the fans too.”
After finishing second in last year’s GTE-AM class at the 24 Hours of LeMans, Long must now change over to the 50-minute sprint race mode featured in the Pirelli World Challenge.
“With the strong GT field, I will have more to prove with the new car and team too,” Patrick explained. “In the sprint format, I will have to get everything possible out of the race car. I know last year’s GT championship came right down to the final few laps with Johnny and Olivier (Beretta). And with additional teams and drivers, I expect that challenge to continue this year.”
Working with Pfeiffer in the past gives Long added confidence as he heads to the Pirelli World Challenge season opener set for March 3-6 at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex.
“I worked with Stefan on three other teams, and a lot of Stefan’s principles and ways of working are very well-suited for me as a driver,” admitted Long. “He runs the program as an engineer, but he is also a leader. It’s calming to know you have someone who can look at a situation and can work methodically and objectively towards the goals. It breeds confidence and allows you as a driver to focus on your job and nothing else.”
With Long’s experience behind the wheel of a Porsche machine, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Patrick’s résumé adding another Pirelli World Challenge title.
“That’s the goal we set out to achieve every year, and I’m anxious to get the season started and work hard for a tough PWC championship,” said Long.
Over 85 entries have already been filed for the Pirelli World Challenge season opener which features seven different classes racing at the start-of-the-art 3.427-mile circuit just east of the Texas capital city.
Tom Blattler, Pirelli World Challenge, 317-525-5692
Dave Drimmie, Pirelli World Challenge, (416) 835-6601