Smooth but assertive, technically masterful, patient, and bold; Patrick Long is one of today’s best sports car racers. Watching him at work is something to behold, as his car control is second-to-none. The way he methodically coaxes speed out of the car and the tires is something any aspiring driver can appreciate and learn from.
He’s quite handy in Porsche 911s — as the only American factory driver for the marque, he has to be — as he shows in this series of hot laps how to get the most out of a 997 Cup Car. Note how he saws at the wheel during the outlap to scrub the front tires and get them up to temperature. At 0:37, he even cranks the wheel well past where it needs to be and induces a bit of understeer. Subtle zig-zags down the straights also help in this regard. Once he’s finished getting the fronts up to temperature, he power slides the car beautifully (1:57) after it skips over a small bump. With the engine forcing the rear wheels into the pavement, it takes much less effort to get them up to operating temperature.
Tires aren’t the only concern he has when doing some final setup touches on track. At 1:48, his right hand tweaks the brake bias knob. Since the previous braking zone is at a slight angle, ie. the car is laterally loaded somewhat, the stability of the car under braking is all the more noticeable. Perhaps he sensed a minute amount of push in the preceding right-hander, and felt some more bias towards the rear would help the Porsche rotate. This is done again during the long left-hander at 2:08, perhaps showing that the front axle wasn’t working as well as he would’ve liked.
The improvement in turn-in is visible, and that means the rear is somewhat nervous under braking (2:39), but it’s manageable. With the car handling more to his liking, he can balance it in fast corners. At 2:52, he smoothly applies the gas, catches a small snap of oversteer, and then picks up the throttle while pushing the front axle as it understeers slightly on exit. The way he pushes both axles to the limit with a subtle and measured throttle application is truly impressive.
With the tires hot and the brake bias to his liking, he’s almost ready to put in a flyer. The steering on his second lap is still quite busy — the tires not fully up to temperature yet — but the change in behavior is clear. Rather than struggling with understeer, he’s now managing a little more movement at the rear. Fortunately, with traction afforded by the rear-engine layout, he’s able to accelerate quite well with the rears spinning, so he keeps his foot planted and shimmies out of the corner at high speeds.
Clean, tidy, and strikingly smooth compared to the frantic outlap, his final lap is the quickest. Avoiding most of the curbs and steering smoothly, he strings together a very classy, understated lap with minimal counter-steering. This lap, a 2:17.2, set the record for Cup Cars at Monticello, and shows us how a racing car needs to be treated with a skillful mix of sensitivity and assertiveness to get the most from it.