After losing out on the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge title in heartbreaking fashion, Patrick Long says clinching this year’s overall championship has taken his redemption arc full circle.
The Porsche factory ace added this season’s overall and Sprint crowns to his 2011 series title, and had a big hand in securing the manufacturer’s championship for Porsche and the team title to Wright Motorsports in a season that saw the Californian pick up four wins and nine additional podiums in 19 starts.
While typically not one to languish dwelling on the past, Long conceded that the gut-wrenching end to his 2016 title bid had him extra motivated to achieve the feat the following year.
“I always try to look ahead in what the goal is, but I’m human and I’ll be honest that there was a shock factor to a few things that happened in a perfect storm of an unbelievable 2016 final lap,” Long told Sportscar365.
“The best way to put that completely behind me was to go out this year and just pick up as many of the titles as possible.
“You can’t ask for more than how this season finished up and it’s exciting to stamp our hand down on the table and start preparing for 2018.”
That he was able to clinch the championship driving for longtime friend John Wright and Wright Motorsports only added to the joy of redeeming the difficult end of 2016.
The relationship between owner and driver, forged in Long’s 2011 championship year when both worked for TruSpeed, was solidified last year when EFFORT Racing went on hiatus mid-season, putting Long’s immediate future in PWC in jeopardy.
Into the void came Wright, who added a second car alongside Michael Schein’s GTA program, throwing Long a lifeline in his pursuit for a championship.
In the season and a half since, the combination of Long and Wright has consistently been a frontrunner in a GT field full of factory teams and drivers.
“For last year and what he did, as well as Mike Schein, to allow me to come mid-season into their effort which was a bespoke one-car team and everything was set up to run one car, that was a huge lifeline for me,” he said.
“There’s a friendship and a common respect. We really have a lot of open communication, sometimes very open, and it allows for a bond that in the end, when you distill it all the way down, there’s just a lot of trust.
“John Wright believes that the right driver in a car is just the best horsepower money can buy, and for a driver when you strap into the car and you know that the team has been rubbing on that car since the last time you were at a race track, that’s what you need.
“It’s the ultimate trust that you have each other’s back and you believe in one another.”
Asked to compare his 2011 title to his most recent championship, Long said the addition of SprintX and the increased level of factory involvement makes winning in this era of PWC even more fulfilling.
“I think the two main variables between this year’s championship and the last one is 2011 is just how competitive and evenly matched the cars are with the GT3 globalized format,” he said.
“In 2011, we had sort of a standalone rules package, if you will, where there were cars coming from a lot of different philosophies and a lot of the balancing of performance was done with success ballast based on finishing position from prior races.
“For that era, it was great and competitive and close, but today’s format of a globalized GT3 platform with factory-prepared, turn-key cars offered to customers has made it more attainable for a wider range of entry and it’s made it so close at the front.
“I think SprintX was even a second degree of that element, we’ve seen progress in the previous two seasons with GT3.
“I think there was a huge increase of subscription by factories, but I think the beauty of GT3 is that independent teams like Wright Motorsports can come to play against prototype, factory cars that someone like Pratt & Miller has put into the mix.
“If you see what SRO has done in Europe and globally with the GT1 championship and how that has evolved into things like Blancpain and ADAC, you’ve got Australia subscribing to this format.
“I think for the U.S. to have a sprint-based GT3 championship that has drivers from multiple continents, that’s all going in the right direction.”