EXCLUSIVE: We Catch Up with Flying Lizard Motorsports' Pat Long


By Sam Tickell

Long has a massively successful career in GT racing (pic (c) Porsche)

At the Armor All Gold Coast 600 held recently on the Gold Coast of Australia, we were able to catch up with Pat Long. Pat was not fancied by Australian media for the race but proved to be the shining light of the international drivers for the weekend - proving what we already know, and what some Aussie journos didn't - that he is a top class racer.

He has spent most of his career with Porsche, and the last few years with Flying Lizard Motorsports. He started his car racing career in Formula Fords but didn't really shine. Despite this he caught the eye of Tom Milner and Porsche. He ran the in the Porsche Supercup for a couple of years before starting in the ALMS and Le Mans. Since that time, he has had 30 class wins in sportscars and four overall wins (all in Grand Am). He has won his class at Daytona (2009) and Le Mans (2004, 2007) and taken back to back ALMS GT2 class titles (2009, 2010).

To see a gallery of Pat's career, click here. Please note that this interview took place in late October 2010.

Thanks for joining me –how have you enjoyed driving a V8 Supercar?

It’s mega! To be here, the first time in Australia, the first time on this track, the first time in a V8 – three things that I have aspired to do for 10 years. It is massive fun. Sure the competition amongst the internationals and amongst everyone on track is there but in reality, I have realised that there is a small possibility that I could come back and do the enduros in the future. My goal has shifted from proving myself against the internationals to potentially coming an endurance driver and coming over here a couple times a year when an extra driver is needed.

You raced a couple of races in the Nationwide this year, how does driving a V8 Supercar compare to American stockcars?

To be honest it is truer to a GT2 car than a Nationwide car. I will say that the horsepower and the small tyres and the weight are something that, while not similar, I have had a headstart on that side. The rolling speed, the technology are closer to a GT2 – the geometry of the car too. I think they are the best of both worlds. You have a smaller tyre and no traction control – and those two things would add a lot to the GT classes. It really is a cool formula.

Moving onto the ALMS – you had a tight fight in GT2 and came out on top – how did you find your 2010 season?

Um…yeah to be honest we didn’t know what to expect going into the season. If you would have asked me the probability was on repeating the Championship, I would have given you less than 30%. It is not that I doubted ourselves as a team, it was that where things had gone since the end of 2009. We were not bringing out any massive developments and at the end of the year last year we were already getting hassled by the BMWs and Corvettes and the rest of them – who would also continue to improve.

Saying that, we proved ourselves wrong and we probably proved a lot of other people wrong. I think we did that through teamwork and strategy, race craft and overall the most important thing is that we were mistake free all year. I think when our competition slipped up or had bad luck we were able to captialise and that was what kept us in the frame to win. It wasn’t easy, the competition has never been higher in GT2 but I think it motivated us to race for wins every weekend. We never points raced we raced for victories. That was different to our strategy last year where we played it safe through the middle of the year. That almost ended up backfiring on us. That went really, really well and to plan. If there was one time where we were a little bit conservative – it was at Petit Le Mans. It was where we had to finish tenth or better but it wasn’t part of the plan. It wasn’t spoken about. It was part of that professionalism that Flying Lizard has. It was in our subconscious and we all aligned on that and without talking about it. It happened in a way that we went hard enough to get on the podium in the final round of the year. It was one of those things that no one will remember who won Petit Le Mans in 2010 but people will remember the Championship.

It would have been even sweeter if we got the Team’s Championship but realistically, for Porsche and for Flying Lizard there is really only one car that was putting in points each race. Where Rahal Letterman had two all professional lineups and were able to capitalise when one car had a weak point – the other car was able to pick up the slack. We didn’t have that luxury so in the end it was tough but it was still a very reasonable result.

Moving onto 2011 are you expecting to stay with Flying Lizard and Porsche in GT?

There has been no decisions made and really my philosophy is to pick up the phone when it rings and not to give my bosses a hard time in Germany. Really they have enough things going on with their customer programs and deciding where all of their drivers are going to be placed. For me it is just about staying in the background and when they rock up and tell me where to go, I will be ready to go. I don’t have any green lights at the moment but what you said would be most probable – above anything else. As I said nothing has been said to me and I am just speculating.

A couple of years ago you raced the Porsche RS Spyder with Penske. Would you like to move back to the prototype cars?

If we were running for overall – yes. But in the end I am happy working for Porsche and I will go where they tell me. Right now the competition is so high in GT2 and it is a ton of fun. With all the manufacturers in the ALMS at the moment, there is not a place I would rather be. It sounds cliché but I am thankful for where I am and there is not really a series at this point that I know of where eight or nine cars have the chance to win every weekend. Maybe here with the V8 Supercars but from competition, GT2 is where I want to be. My passion in this game is having to dig deep and race hard every weekend.

Long raced a V8 Supercar on the streets of the Gold Coast and hugely impressed onlookers (pic: (c) Sam Tickell)

Are you confident with the future direction of the ALMS?

Yeah – I think the prototypes, the LMPs are a bit of a question mark. I haven’t really kept up on the politics of what might happen. The GTC and the GT stuff has really been a breathe of fresh air and if they can get more GT3 cars in it would be really good for the Series. I think the health of the Series is as good as it has been but we need to sort out the front of the grid to make sure it is making good TV and good action. GT2 is carrying more than its own weight.

You have had a few successes at Le Mans, but the last couple of years have been difficult, can you take us through some of your memories from that race?

The most memorable was the first year that I went there. It was awe inspiring and overwhelming, as there were so many firsts. Probably a lot like this weekend – everything was so new to me. Winning at the end of the weekend it just added to that overwhelming experience. That was the most memorable. Certainly the most enjoyable was in 2007 with the new team – a French team [IMSA Performance] at that. Leading the team, with a gentleman teammate and a rookie teammate in Richard Leitz – trying to give them all the experience that I had from the previous three starts that I made – that was really cool.

At the start of your career, in about 2003, you looked to have a drive with PTG BMW but that fell through after a decision from BMW to stop the program. At the time, how much of a blow was that to your career?

In 2003 was the first year of my career with Porsche – with the junior team and I didn’t expect to be moved up to the factory team so early but I think they needed some GT drivers and being American it made sense to send me back home. When I ran with Tom Milner and he gave me an opportunity to run one of his GT cars that was very interesting. I was a 20 year old kid who had mediocre Formula Ford results and he wanted to put a junior team of Americans together. It ended up being Danica and I who would have shared a car that season. But with the politics and the way they fell, the ACO not being happy with BMW not building the amount of production cars that BMW was supposed to, it just didn’t work out. But it was probably for the best.

I was still a bit young and probably not ready to go fully into the ALMS without having any tin top or endurance experience. I remember a year and half later going to Petit Le Mans for my first endurance race – it was very daunting even after running a full season in Porsches. I think it all worked out and everything happened for a reason. I was very grateful to Tom for the opportunity as we tested against a bunch of more established drivers and he put his money on us and that was cool. He gave me a salary and a company car that year and I never did a race for him. He is a man of his word and I am grateful for that. We always talk and share some good laughs – even though we have never worked in a race together.

Finally, you have competed in a few Grand Am races, how do you see the relationship between ALMS and Grand Am – could they come together or work together more?

I don’t think that a merger is the only way to go forward but I do think they need to play nicer together. There are a lot of sportscar drivers that need to race in more than one series to pay their bills. Guys that are running for independent teams. I just think that there are fans that want to be at all the races and when they book weekends on the same weekends – that probably has a lot to do with things outside their control but there is probably room to be more amicable and I only hope that that can happen.

I have seen that there has been a lot of restructure in the management of Grand Am. They have been great to me as a driver and I really get along with Gary Cummings. I don’t know the other guys but Mark Rappot is a great guy and I hope that they and ALMS can work well in the future. Whether that is merging together or giving each other a bit of space and not booking on top of each other – that is all I can hope for.

Thanks Pat, very much appreciate you talking with us


Long's career has been made with Porsche and Flying Lizard Motorsports (pic: (c) Porsche)