California may seem like the ideal place on earth to live, with its legendary beaches, surf and laid back lifestyle, but they too are feeling the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak. This, though, is not the time to be hitting the beach or catching a few waves, it is a time for being sensible and staying safe and in trim for when the restrictions are lifted and life returns to normal. PORSCHE ROAD & RACE reached out to Porsche factory driver, Patrick Long, to find out what he has been up to during this lock-down period.
First a bit of background on this driver. As a Porsche factory driver, Patrick Long pilots race cars on both sides of the Atlantic, participating in both the IMSA series in the US and the Le Mans 24 Hours. In addition to that, there is the small issue of being the co-founder and co-organiser of the well-known and fast-growing Luftgekühlt exhibition in the USA, this being its seventh year of showing. Keeping all of those plates spinning in the air at the same time requires quite some planning, foresight and a cool head.
Patrick Long has been a Porsche factory driver since 2004. Not only do you need a serious amount of talent and skill to stay at that level for that length of time, but also an unwavering commitment to a disciplined mental and physical training regime. This is perhaps easier to do when you have a schedule of races to attend, but when that all goes out of the window as it has done this year, it all comes down to the individual. PORSCHE ROAD & RACE caught up with Patrick to find out what he has been up to:
PRR – To start with, I hope you are healthy and well and you haven’t been affected in any way.
Patrick – That is correct, yes, I’m thankful for that. We are taking things quite seriously and definitely thinking of people who are still having to work and be on the front line at this point.
PRR – Guys like yourself, who have got to be physically fit to do your job, you basically can’t afford to be down at any point, so it is vital for you.
Patrick – I would say that half of a racing driver’s life is like this, although this is a bit more compressed, but not completely irregular for us. But certainly, on the physical and the mental side, we will need some reactivation when this all gets going again.
PRR – How has your routine changed in the light of the coronavirus outbreak?
Patrick – I managed to escape to the countryside with my family, we fortunately left just as things started to get a little bit bumpy before the general lockdown, to a small family ranch that we have in Central California. I have been based up here and that has given me time to still operate a home office and have an exercise routine. I have a bit more space to be distanced socially, so that has been a big advantage and I am thankful for that. But specific to driving, I am commuting safely once a week down to my Los Angeles base to do some sim-racing. That is not part of my regular routine during the race season, but I think generally for me it is a bit of an outlet, some relevant mental exercise. I am not an avid sim racer, I am more old school, so I am just a racing driver who, I guess, tampers with the esports community. Esports has been around for a decade, but for the mainstream fan and for the mainstream automotive enthusiast like myself it is a different world, so I am just getting my head around it. I think it will evolve and continue to march ahead, but it has received unprecedented attention during this coronavirus pandemic.
PRR – As a result of the current situation, what is the most positive point that has come out of this isolation for you?
Patrick – ‘Family first’ is a motto that I carry in business, and this has been a chance for me to spend an unprecedented number of weeks in succession with my two young kids and my wife, so that has been nice. I think that my eyes have been opened to the different perspectives in how we coexist as people, not just with family, but how we coexist with the outside world. I think this is definitely shedding new light on our situational and social awareness, so I think there is some positivity there for sure.
PRR – You have been together with the family for quite some time, have you found yourselves doing things differently?
Patrick – Yes, I think this isolation is interesting in the fact that you really have to create a structure with a realistic schedule. We have a family sports time, we have school sessions in the morning and the afternoon, there are quiet times and there is cooking and things of that nature. It feels a little bit like being on a boat or camping where everybody in the household has their responsibilities. So it forces you to kind of slow down and rethink things, and to be more efficient with what you have.
PRR – On the other side of the coin, what have you disliked most about this situation as it is?
Patrick – My most frustrating hurdle is the challenge in finding unbiased information about what is actually happening in the world. I think it continues to highlight how disjointed the perspective and outlook of the media is, and it is a reminder that there are just very mixed opinions on things. In the end, what we want is health and safety, and we want to make sure that we are united in the direction that is going to bring that about. Really, you just want an honest read on the situation.
PRR – From the team point of view, have you had any kind of guidance or instruction about keeping fit or focusing?
Patrick – Well, we have a great infrastructure at Porsche. They give us advice, programming and suggestions on how to improve yourself which is a remote process. Periodically we come together as a group but for the most part we are left to our own devices. I normally train weekly with a trainer but in these different times I have been able to keep in touch with her remotely and so that part is okay. And then I have just completed a full restoration of my go-kart, so I will be ready as soon as we can go back to normal activities. I will definitely have a reintegration plan for getting a lot of laps in the kart so that all the parts of my body that can’t be simulated in normal gym or cardio work, all those little shakes and bumps and the Gs, those I will get sharpened up with the kart.
But I now spend more time on the phone than I ever have in the past! I did a few interviews last week where I got a soccer ball and was kicking it around to keep moving. When I am on the phone I have headphones, and in this way, I can stay active so I’m actually multi-tasking and staying focused by keeping the ball between my feet while talking. Those are the types of things that we also have to do in the car where you’re communicating with the team while subconsciously hitting your mark. So, these are times where you take the lemons and do what you can with them.
PRR – Exercising and keeping in touch with the team, you have got to keep it all going for obvious reasons.
Patrick – There is plenty to do to contribute to the upkeep of the family ranch, and there is a kind of perimeter trail so I can exercise while not leaving the property, so it is a safe outdoor sport. I also have a pretty advanced stationary bicycle in the office, so it is going okay. But again, that is not very different from when we’re on the road for a few hundred days a year, you are still kind of isolated, you know what it’s like, you keep your program in moving environments.
But again, these times for a racing driver are not completely foreign, but for the team, it is a tougher time. I have been keeping in touch with my team, we actually have a weekly race with the Wright Motorsports team where the mechanics, the drivers and the engineers, everybody joins in the race so it is just a bit of a team building. It is a private sim race where we are all in our own race cars and it is over a radio communications channel so we just meet up once a week wherever we are in the world, it is just for fun, it’s not serious. Not everybody can make it, but we actually race against each other and it is organised by the lead engineer, it is just a bit of fun. Sim racing isn’t my thing, for me it is a mental outlet, it is a way of getting the competition out of your system so that you are not going wheel-to-wheel on the way to the grocery store!
PRR – How do you feel the WEC or the IMSA series is going to play out this year, in real time?
Patrick – It is a challenge that is a moving target and I really don’t envy the decision-makers. I don’t know, it is going to be something where I’m hoping for the best and a lot of it is going to be out of their hands, what they can and can’t do. Certainly, the year 2020 is going to leave a mark and I think everybody is doing their best to plan for what they assume is going to be the situation, but you don’t know. For the motorsport community this is tough, because we are an events-based community and so this hits motorsport pretty hard.
PRR – Luft7, are there any changes to the actual exhibition or is it just a change of date?
Patrick – It is just a change of date to November 1, and we hope it will be a seamless transition. The challenging part of our formula is that we change our venue every year. This year our host has been so professional and compassionate about the situation because they are so excited to have this ‘Porsche show’ coming to town. We are still on for Durham, it is a very cool part of the South and a community that we can’t wait to get to, so we are hopeful that all is going to move ahead.
Like motorsport organisers, I have a little bit of a perspective on how much ripple effect there is with something like this. There is so much work like with the communication strategy, I must’ve spent three solid weeks on our rescheduling process, and that was before Trump closed the borders. We sensed that it was coming, but I can only imagine what it must be like for the WEC or IMSA, I really feel for those guys.
PORSCHE ROAD & RACE would like to thank Patrick Long for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat to us. We wish Patrick all the best in his endeavours in 2020, and above all, to stay safe and fit during this challenging time!
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale