Patrick Long has been participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2004 and has not missed even one edition. An official Porsche driver for several seasons now, the 36-year-old American competes in GT and has already claimed a podium finish five times, reaching the top step twice (2004 and 2007).
Tell us about your very first participation. "[My first participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans] was in 2004 (Porsche 911 GT3-RS of the White Lightning Racing team with Jörg Bergmeister and Sascha Maassen, win in GT, Ed.). [I remember] the speed. It was an amazing experience to go that fast for so many seconds per lap. It was really overwhelming and spectacular."
Do you prefer taking the start of the race or crossing the finish line? "I normally do the start and I don't often do the finish, so I remember taking the finish here in 2007 was quite special in the rain, so I'll say finish (victory in GT2 at the wheel of the #76 Porsche 997 GT3-RSR of IMSA Performance with Raymond Narac and Richard Lietz, Ed.). My best memory was in GT in 2007, we were driving for a French team, IMSA Performance, it was a magical moment because it was a very small team and a tough race with a rain finish. It was great."
What is your favorite stint during the race? "The second stint, before the night and after the start. And I like the sunrise, the temperature is still low, the air temperature is low, the track temperature is coming up, it's nice."
What is your worst memory? "2013 was the worst one. To be in a race and to lose someone that you raced against for a long time was a very sad time and a very big challenge (alluding to Allan Simonsen, Ed.).
Which teammate has or teammates have marked you? "I mean, that's a difficult one. Let's say Patrick Dempsey because he chased the podium of this race for so many years and when he achieved that (in 2015 with the Porsche 911 RSR of Dempsey-Proton Racing with Marco Seefried, second in the LMGTE Am, Ed.), it was quite a special moment for me to see the emotion and the passion for the race, so it was a great experience."
What does the 24 Hours of Le Mans mean to you? "[It's on a] world stage for sports car racing. In my opinion this race is a world sporting event. For someone who makes his career in racing, it's just the top by far."
What is the perception of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the U.S.? "Legendary. It's a name that even someone on the street who's not a fan of racing recognizes, and for people who come here from the U.S., it's on what they call a bucket list, or a dream trip. The people at Le Mans are really what makes this place special. The experience is made by the people. There is so much enthusiasm and passion. From the first time I arrived in Le Mans for the race in 2004, as a driver, I've never felt an energy or excitement from the fans like this. So it's a place where any driver who's taking part in the race feels some level of stardom! It's a parallel event [to the Indianapolis 500] in the sense I believe there isn't one driver who doesn't wish they had the chance to experience it. It's a goal. I think there's so much history, and there's so many world-level drivers who have competed here that it's a list that many people want to be on."