Most sixteen-year-olds spend their time learning how to parallel park and struggling with acne. Just after his sweet sixteen, Patrick Long moved to Europe to work on racing strategy and focus on becoming one of America’s best drivers. It worked. He’s since become the youngest American to take class victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans — all while performing as Porsche’s go-to driver for testing new cars. Today, the 32-year-old has proven himself unflappable in the high-stress environment of racing and charismatic in front of a camera. We grabbed a few minutes with the Southern Californian between his surf sessions and race day.
Q. What’s one thing every man should know?
That modesty is way more interesting than wearing your wealth around your neck or your bank account on your wrist.
Q. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Moving to Europe at sixteen to spend six years living on my own as I worked my way up through the karting and open-wheel racing ladders, leaving a traditional American education to give everything to my sport while holding a full-time job, and finishing school in an independent study program. I distinctly remember thinking, “Oh shit, I hope this works out or I don’t know what I am going to do in life.”
Q. What are you working on right now?
I’m collaborating with my long-time sponsor Oakley on a complete redesign of their driving shoe, restoring my 1930 Model A roadster into sort of a rat rod, minus the rust, learning how to better balance work and my personal life, and becoming a legit husband.
I distinctly remember thinking, “Oh shit, I hope this works out or I don’t know what I am going to do in life.”
Q. Name one thing you can’t live without.
Exposure to nature and the ocean. I am not a city boy.
Q: Who or what influences you?
Artistic and creative minds. I find myself useless in the department of art and music, so I rely heavily on the ones who are gifted in that area. Thankfully, I’ve got a lot of those types in my life.
Q. What are you reading right now?
A. Racing in the Rain
by Garth Stein, mixed with any and all literature on the classic Porsche 911. I’ve spent about two years researching everything from the first 911 model in 1963 to the last air-cooled engine example from 1998.
Q. Name one thing no one knows about you.
I find it hard to stay awake in a movie theater.
Q. It’s your last drink and meal on earth. What’ll it be?
Three street tacos and a Pacifico.
Q. If you could go back and tell your sixteen-year-old self something, what would you say?
Not everyone wants to be treated the way you do, and don’t call someone only when you need a favor.
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
As a hard but fair racer who you could trust to rub fenders with on the track, and someone who contributed and gave back to the sport that has given me so much.
Q. If someone you just met asks what you do for a living, what do you tell them?
Just that I work in the automotive industry. If they then get curious and want more detail, I tell them that I drive for Porsche as a member of their in-house “works” team.
Q. What is the most beautiful car ever made? (1 Porsche and 1 non-Porsche)?
The Porsche 356/1 and the Lamborghini Miura.
Q. What’s the scariest thing that has ever happened to you (inside or outside of a car)?
Two things come to mind: First, being pulled out of a car and held at gunpoint in Mexico by the Federal Police — thankfully, in a case of mistaken identity. Second, in racing, any time you go off the racetrack and find yourself sliding across wet grass, it’s a moment when time slows down and you know the next moment includes a big crunch and an abrupt stop. It’s a really bad feeling of temporal distortion where time seems to slow down dramatically, but you know exactly what’s coming next.
Q. What is the album of the year and/or movie of the year?
. In my opinion, Ron Howard nailed it with the story of a true iconic rivalry in the best era of Formula One racing to date.
Currently, Long is working with Oakley on a new racing shoe and getting ready for the 2014 racing season starting with the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 25-26, which will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and 2. Tune in, and check out Long’s site here.