Patrick Long says the decision to step down from professional competition has been “many, many months” in the making after what he feels his driving career has run its “natural course.”
The 40-year-old Porsche factory pilot announced Thursday that this weekend’s Motul Petit Le Mans will be his final race as a full-time driver as Long prepares for his next chapters with Porsche Motorsport North America and Porsche Cars North America.
Long, one of the most successful sports car racing drivers in North America, has spent the last two decades linked with the German manufacturer, achieving class wins and championships along the way in an illustrious career in Porsche prototype and GT machinery.
“I’ve always had ambitions that were greater than just driving,” Long told Sportscar365. “Having my own business and also my own programs within PMNA and PAG (Porsche AG) that are not driver-related.
“It’s just taken a natural course.
“I’ve always had some kind of internal gut feeling that being a driver and being exposed to all of the very intelligent individuals in this paddock was going to be my university.”
Long said it took about a year-and-a-half working with Porsche to carve out his new roles, both as a brand ambassador for PCNA and a competition advisor at PMNA.
“The phone rang and it was an interesting conversation that started with Dr. [Frank-Steffen] Walliser,” said Long. “He’s the kind of guy — although he’s not officially involved in motorsport today, he’s always been a motorsport guy.
“My relationship started with him on a drive from Nürburgring to Stuttgart in 2003 in my Boxster as a [Porsche] Junior. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me.
“He had just finished the Carrera GT and we just talked like we were old friends for two hours.
“It’s fitting that he’s been one of the people who have brought forward some ideas.
“We had been working on that in the background, all the while trying to remind myself that I have to be focused on driving and I have to be focused on my role within this organization with Ryan [Hardwick] and Wright.
“I’m completely at peace and understanding that this is all playing out. It feels really good but I did underestimate yesterday’s emotions.
“There’s always been a pull and an ambition that I have more to contribute to this paddock, to this company, to my own personal ambitions.
“I had a goal of racing in a relevant environment and making sure that I was worthy of the seat I had. This has been an unbelievable opportunity.
“Not talking about results but the experience. The amount of countries and continents and seeing the world. From a driving perspective, there’s nothing eating at me that’s like, ‘Man, maybe I could accomplish or experience X, Y or Z.’
“It was just time.”
Long said he can’t pinpoint one specific highlight in his career but rather a culmination of moment that helped shape the time when driving for Porsche as its sole American factory driver as well as other racing exploits.
“I wanted to win my class in the big endurance races,” he said. “I wanted to win some races in other disciplines such as Baja, ARCA, South American touring cars.
“I wanted to experience different types of motorsport at a high level.
“From a sports car side, going to Le Mans as a competitor for the first time with Joerg [Bergmeister] and Sascha [Maassen] in 2004 and standing on the top step of the podium first time out, that was a pretty wild emotion as a rookie.
“Last year, the final stint at Sebring and just the shock of standing on the roof of the car after the race and missing that championship by one point but it didn’t matter because it was such a wild final stint with so many great competitors.
“I’m most grateful for the multi-year relationships inside the teams, the Lizards, Penske, Wright, Petersen/White Lighting… the list goes on.
“It wasn’t just a journeyman for hire but I’ve grown into these organizations. I love the people behind the scenes.
“My lead mechanic Lee Marks, we’ve been together for over a decade. Bobby [Viglione] is my engineer for the last five years. The list goes on.
“Putting my finger on one — I don’t really have that. I would say that I never dreamt of racing for Penske. All those years waking up and watching the 500 and to still have a relationship with Roger is special.
“I’m excited about 2023 and what might exist there on the other side of the wall. There’s a lot of things to be grateful for.
“I am looking forward to the era of sports car racing that this sport is heading into. I hope I can have a meaningful contribution but that’s yet to be seen.”