Patrick Long made a strong impression racing for Garry Rogers Motorsport in the Australian V8 Supercars Gold Coast 600 this weekend, taking a 4th place and an 11th place in the dual races Saturday and Sunday. Long, picked by some local media as the most likely “international” driver to struggle in the races, made good on the faith placed in him by team boss Garry Rogers and by Leigh Diffey, the SPEED commentator who urged Rogers to sign Patrick for the weekend.
For Saturday’s 300k race, Long’s teammate Michael Caruso qualified 5th to make the Top 10 Shootout, then finished in 9th in the shootout, giving him his starting grid position for race one. After some opening lap chaos – mainly from the contingent of international drivers – Caruso worked his way as high as second during his stint, handing the car off early under green to Patrick in P2. Long rejoined the race in 20th place and ran hard as the rest of the teams cycled through their pit stops. Long was able to lead the field for six laps as he held of the eventual winner Garth Tander of the Toll Holden Racing Team. Tander was able to get past Long, who pitted from P2, handing the car back to “Robbo” Caruso. The team was delayed slightly in their pit stop by contact with the adjacent team’s tires, but Caruso was able to fight back up to 4th place prior to the finish. Patrick impressed during his stint, more than holding his own against the V8 Supercar regulars, and eventually finished second among the international drivers, behind only World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx, a racer who has driven quite regularly in the V8 Supercars Series’ enduros.
Of Saturday’s race, he said, “Being able to hang with the guys up front was really, really good. The heart rate was pretty mild. These cars – on a race run – reward smooth, methodical driving. In the chicanes you really have to “rag it,” as they say here, but everywhere else, and especially with 120 liters of fuel on board, you have to be smart and keep your aggression in check. I loved it. I loved every minute of it. My strategy was just to bang out smooth and fast laps and to hand over the car without any damage.”
In Sunday’s second 300km race, Long’s teammate qualified 14th, and since all the internationals had one race worth of V8 Supercars experience under their belts, the opening laps were incident-free. During his stint, Long suffered a right front puncture fell off the lead lap after an unscheduled green flag stop. Patrick then forced his way back on to the lead lap over the next 30 laps before turning the wheel over to Caruso. “Robbo” continued the charge and brought the #34 GRM Commodore all the way back to 11th place in race two.
Patrick claimed second place among the internationals for the weekend after the combined race finishes were tallied. Long placed ahead of IRL, WTCC and Formula 1 veterans like Jacques Villeneuve, Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais, Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, Scott Pruett, Mika Salo and David Brabham, among others.
“I’d rate Pat the top of the international rookies after Round 1,” said 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti. “He put on one hell of a drive. Priaulx also drove an excellent race, but he knows these cars pretty well.”
Patrick said, “It’s been a huge honor to compete with Garry Rogers Motorsport this weekend around this incredible venue. When you put a 3000lb. touring car with 650 horsepower around a street circuit like Surfer’s Paradise, it’s bound to be an adventure, but it’s been a blast to reconnect with some of my old friends from my early career, take in the atmosphere and go wheel-to-wheel with not only the V8 Supercars regulars but some of the biggest names from Indycar and beyond. I’d love to come back again in the future, but for the moment it’s off to Germany to race on the Nürburgring Nordschliefe this weekend, and then to China to race the Porsche GT3 R Hybrid at Zhuhai.”
The Austalian V8 Supercars Armor All Gold Coast 600 races will be broadcast at 3pm ET on Sunday Oct. 31 on SPEEDTV.
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