Patrick Long Retired from Full-Time Racing but Isn't Slowing Down

Luftgekuhlt alone would be enough for anyone, but Long has many more plates spinning in the air.

patrick long porsche racer
Mark Vaughn

It was exactly a year ago that American race car driver Patrick Long announced he was stepping down from full-time racing, after 15 appearances at Le Mans, 18 at Daytona, winning the American Le Mans Series title three times, the Pirelli World Challenge twice, and the Patron Endurance Cup Driver’s title once. He has also competed in NASCAR, the Baja 1000, and even Vintage racing. Then it was time to step away. Here’s what he said a year ago in a statement on his website:

“The day has come, and with a lot of support and after many conversations, I have made the choice to step out of a full-time racing role to start the next chapter of my career. Driving and racing will always remain part of my life, but they will no longer be the majority.”

Instead, there will be many other majorities, if that’s mathematically possible, maybe more than there were before. We got to visit with Long and see what he’s up to (and maybe lobby for a ticket to the next Luftgekuhlt, his wildly successful celebration of air-cooled Porsches). Here’s an update since he “retired.”

“Yeah, I don’t know if I use the word ‘retired’ because I’m working harder than I ever have,” Long said when we met him at the Mobil 1/Hagerty stand at the SEMA show. “New focuses, new beginnings. Some of these projects have been going in the background of my racing career, and now I’m getting to focus on them. It’s been fun, creatively, but also organizationally, to really focus on Luft, but also to work with PMNA (Porsche Motorsports North America) on the motorsport side and PCNA (Porsche Cars North America) on the product side. So those things again, all three of those things I’ve been doing, but now I get to give full focus to them.”

world premier porsche macan at la auto show
Patrick Long and Patrick Dempsey, both Porsche drivers, at the LA auto show.
Angela WeissGetty Images

Does that mean he’d go back to racing? Not in the same way.

“Right now, I’m pretty fulfilled, but I am jumping into race cars. I have some wild ideas that I’ve been talking to Hagerty and Mobil 1 about this morning, maybe some new disciplines, some bigger kind of key market races that I can put a couple of months of preparation into that I never could before.”

Such as?

“I don't have anything inked, but I’ll say it. You know, we've known each other a long time (he and I): I want to get down and go back to the Baja 1000.”

He has been in the Baja 1000 before and liked it. In 2013 he won his class racing with the Navarro family in Class 12. Baja winners Rafael Navarro IV and Vic Bruckmann joined Long in the CTF/R4R Pete’s Camp Racing SCORE Lites Jimco-VW buggy in the 46th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000.

“That was my first time doing the 1000. And, hey, 10-year anniversary! But I’m making the announcement here. I want to go back to Baja next year. Right now, though, all I have is a helmet and an idea.”

There’s a lot to love about racing in Mexico, much of it unexpected.

“I love the team aspect. When I got out of my stint in 2013 they threw me into a big full-sized pickup truck full of people and had me drive it across the peninsula in the middle of the night. That was harder and scarier than the race itself.”

“I don’t know if I use the word ‘retired’ because I’m working harder than I ever have.”

Pikes Peak is another place Long would love to race.

“I was talking to Lonnie Unser—her family has great lineage at Pikes Peak. There’s a lot of momentum around Pikes Peak with Ken (Block)’s car behind us (the Hoonipigasus, which he was standing next to at SEMA when we spoke). So yeah, just finally getting to that point where I’ve been out of the car for a year, but the creative and the driving are starting to kind of blend together, and SEMA is always a good intersection for wild ideas.”

Has he ever raced at Pikes Peak?

“I have not. And that’s kind of like Baja, I don’t see it as, like, you show up as a celebrity driver and just jump in for the weekend; you really need to put many months into it. I’ve watched a friend of mine, Cam Ingram, prepare for the Porsche GT4 class. And he’s one that, I believe, the last two years he’s literally been living part of the year at the base of the mountain to be at altitude to be going up that hill long before the race shows up. So yeah, I’m one of those. Maybe it’s the 20 years with the German Porsche company that, it’s ‘over-prepare’ and ‘know what you're doing.’ So it seems like a serious race with a lot of momentum. I’m interested, but I’m moving slow in that direction.”

He knows the dangers of Pikes Peak.

“They don’t just pull you out of the gravel trap. There’s a lot of sections where you’re gonna go down a long way, and your weekend is gonna be over. Weather is a big aspect there. As we saw last year, snow, fog, everything comes up. There are also challenges in endurance racing, all those curveballs thrown at you in Le Mans. I was lucky enough to do 15 Le Mans in a row. I did 18 Rolex 24s and so I’ve seen some of the elements, but certainly when you’re on the side of a mountain, it’s different than being in Daytona Beach.”

le mans 24 hour race qualifying
The Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Long, Tim Pappas, and Spencer Pumpelly during qualifying for Le Mans 2018.
Ker RobertsonGetty Images

He feels a 911 would suit him well at Pikes Peak.

“The 911 has proven to be a strong platform at Pikes Peak. Romain Dumas is a good teammate of mine and colleague at Porsche. He’s shown some speed up the hill in a 911. This car behind us (the Hoonipigasus) is a wild idea that Ken Block has been involved with, but the 911 has proven to be a strong platform at Pikes Peak.”

If someone from Hoonigan were to ask, hint, hint, he’d be happy to drive it. Not being a full-time factory driver has opened up lots of possibilities to do other things.

“These are the types of things that normally, being on the road race after race, I probably wouldn’t have had the bandwidth or time to go during the week and work with the teams. But that is a part of what I do day-to-day these days. And I have more bandwidth to consult both streetcar and race car, private teams, individuals, but also to work with Porsche. I just came back from Weissach, (where) I did the worldwide debut of the new GT3 RS.”

There was some consulting involved in that, too.

“I jumped in the new GT3 RS and gave a little bit of feedback to the team. That’s what we always did as racing drivers, right? Our main job was to develop the car in a small amount of time, and to be concise and articulate, and really tell them where they need to focus and not send them down holes that were irrelevant for getting the big productivity and really dialing these cars in. So that’s another part of that, the act of driving, that I still like to do.”

He also works with PCNA’s new CEO Volker Holzmeyer, who is also president and CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America. Long will be at Daytona, Sebring, and Long Beach working with new young Porsche drivers, as well as being at Rennsport, one of his favorite events.

“In the past couple of years, (participating in Rennsport) has been about every opportunity on track that I could fulfill, driving some of these cars that I’ve dreamt of. In 2018 (at Rennsport VI) I was running between a (Porsche) tractor, an IndyCar, a 917/30 and a ‘68 911. I mean, I was like the kid who ate too much at the buffet, I just was jumping into so many cars.”

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Porsche recently announced the Rennsport Reunion will return to Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, 2023. It’ll be the seventh running of the all-Porsche event. Long figures he might do less driving at that one.

“In 2023, I’ll probably cut back a little bit on the driving just so that I can be fulfilling my role on some of the advising, both on the competition side and on the design and direction of the event. But that’s the fun part about Luftgekuhlt, I’m learning the aspect of the creativity, but also the nuts and bolts of producing events, which, everybody can tell you how to design it, but can you build the house itself? And so it’s fun to consult and work on a few of the different teams with PCNA. On the event side, I really have grown to love that. It’s not as easy as I thought. But it’s been fun.”

Long has been surprised and delighted with how well Luftgekuhlt has been accepted.

“Yeah, it’s hard to believe. I mean, we’ve done about 13 events in four different countries. That was our eighth event on kind of an annual basis, with a little interruption for the pandemic. It just keeps growing. The passion, enthusiasm and demand are growing exponentially every single year.”

Luftgekuhlt sells out only a few hours after the tickets become available. Typically that means 6000 tickets in less than 12 hours. Long’s biggest problem is figuring out what to say to all the “friends” who ask him how they can get tickets after the event sells out. He hears a bewildering assortment of excuses as to why people couldn’t buy tickets.

“‘My cat had an epileptic seizure. My dog ate my homework.’ I mean, for two months. We were trying to squeeze as many people as the fire marshal would let us squeeze in.”

“It’s all a great problem to have. I’m loving every minute of it. I’m excited—I think we have a really strong prospect for a venue for 2023. We’re not quite signed yet.”

And he’s working on other projects.

“I think that I have some ambition to create a couple more experiential brands that have kind of similar framework, but in time. And then around it, we always have fun little projects, like building cars that celebrate the event and give people something to follow along before and after the event. And of course, the apparel side of things is something. This (he points to his chest) is a T-shirt that we did in collaboration with ANDIAL to tell the story of Dieter (Inzenhofer), Arnold (Wagner) and Alwin (Springer), you know. So everything that is around us, there’s so many stories to tell the future Porsche follower.”

Will there be an event of his that combines the cars of Luftgekuhlt with the racing of Rennsport?

“I never say never. We’ve done some. In the last two events, with Mobil 1 as our partner, we did on-track or, sorry, on-road kind of point-to-point gatherings that Mobil 1 helped us produce—rallies, if you will. On-track is something I’ve talked about. I have a few ideas of maybe something that’s not on offer right now, that’s a little bit different, and celebrate some of the storylines in the past of Southern California and the roots of Porsche and Southern California. But as you know, it takes a lot on the logistic side when you start getting into racing. So, in time.”

He’s quick to point out that while he may be the face of the Luft events, it’s not just him doing all this.

“It sounds cliche, but it’s the team around me. I feel confident that I’ve been able to build a group of people that can help me see these wild ideas through, both on the creative side and on the logistical side. I don’t know what my role is—brand is a big part of what I focus on. Oftentimes, when we’re on our weekly calls, I’ll ask questions to the team about, ‘How does that tell the story of the brand?’ And ‘Maybe that’s a great idea that one of our partners wants to do, but I’m not sure it’s the right direction for our brand.’ And ultimately, our brand is what people are clinging on to. And of course, the experience when they’re at the show is one part of it. But if that show only happens once a year, what happens in between, in those other 12 months? So it’s been fun. I feel like I’m just getting started, but it has given me a real purpose and a real focus beyond the racetrack, and I’m very thankful for that.”

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