Two-time World Challenge champion Patrick Long has made his return to SRO Motorsports America competition this year with Wright Motorsports, sharing a Porsche 911 GT3 R with 2018 Sprint champion Scott Hargrove.
In this week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass, America’s only Porsche factory driver discusses his season to date, the cameo appearance in the TV booth last weekend, as well as his ultra-popular Luftgekühlt event for air-cooled Porsches that’s set to return to the LA area next month.
We’re one weekend into the Blancpain GT World Challenge America season and heading to Virginia International Raceway next. What are your expectations for Rounds 3 and 4?
“The start of the season was great. We had a lot to be positive about. As a team we executed to our full potential and hit our marks from the drop of the first green flag. There’s still some performance to find in order to be in a race-winning position. But it’s a long season and a lot of things can happen.
“The new Porsche 911 GT3 R is something we’re getting our arms around. It’s so far been very positive.
“VIR is usually pretty good for the Porsche. It’s technical with lots of curb usage, so you have to be really tuned up with your damping and ride heights. It’s not easy to pass, so track position certainly counts.”
How has it been working with newly minted Porsche Selected Driver Scott Hargrove?
“He needs no introduction with the talent he has been shown across the different platforms.
“Working with teammates is a merger of two different applications of how to go racing. In a really short amount of time, Scott and I have figured out a lot. We’ve hit our marks in our driver changes, we like the same balance of car and we have a great time away from the race track.
“It’s been an ideal start and he’s a guy that brings a lot to a program. I’m very happy with the way things are right now.”
What are your thoughts on the new 90-minute race format for GT3 cars?
“I think it’s great. There’s certainly an aspect of sprint and endurance and I think the series has found its stride in a middle ground between 50-minute single-driver vs. the two-driver SprintX format.
“There’s still a part of me that misses the old school format back from my 2011 championship season. But I think they’ve found a good place in today’s format and I think that stability across various markets is key in today’s sports car racing.
“Stability hopefully brings more opportunities for racing and also keeps the costs contained.”
How was your experience in the CBS Sports Network TV booth, in serving as a color-commentator for the Pirelli GT4 America Sprint race last weekend at Long Beach?
“From the perspective of being full-time in Blancpain GT World Challenge America, but GT3 not being part of Long Beach, a few people pitched me on the plans of potentially commentating on the GT4 race.
“It’s only down the road from where I live and I saw for myself that as long as I could be prepared enough to live up to the opportunity, why not?
“Calvin [Fish] and Greg [Creamer] are total professionals and guys that really look up to and get along with. It was a pretty natural synergy. It was fun.”
You have Luftgekühlt 6, a gathering for air-cooled Porsches and enthusiasts, coming up on May 11 at the Universal Studios Backlot in Hollywood. Did you ever imagine this event you helped co-found some five years ago would get so big?
“Never did I imagine that throwing a little car party, in my creative sense of thought, would develop into a global-attended event. Last year we had [people from] 22 countries, 48 of 50 States in attendance, we pushed the boundaries to the UK and Germany, where we had events in those markets.
“For our event in Munich, we pushed a social media message out three weeks before the show and we had 4,500 people show up to look at a static car display. It shows the power of connectivity.
“It’s an event where people drive their car to the show, they park, we lay their cars out like art displays where a car in a backdrop creates an experience.
“Pirelli is one of our major partners. It’s a fun cross-sector because I work with their engineers in the SRO championship but it’s also fun to work on the marketing side with them.
“They have a whole line of vintage tires that are OEM-spec but they are created for today’s vintage cars. It’s super fun to be working with them on both sides of the spectrum.”