Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Defending American Le Mans Series driver's champ Patrick Long ready for 12 Hours of Sebring

ST. PETERSBURG — Patrick Long started the defense of his second straight American Le Mans Series GT2 driver's championship by going on test runs.

With his body.

In January, Long and eight other Porsche factory drivers spent 10 days in Boca Raton for a boot camp. They went on 10-kilometer runs, lifted weights and did aerobics up to eight hours a day. "Physical training and racing go hand in hand," Long said. "Physical fitness is where the majority of the homework comes in. The true work."

Endurance racing is now about marathon men who make sure their bodies are running as well as their cars. And Long's steadfast commitment to conditioning has helped make a difference on the track. Last year he won his second straight and third career driver's championship.

Long started this season in January at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Driving the Porsche-powered Riley Daytona Prototype, Long and teammate Jorg Bergmeister won the pole position and led the first 27 laps. But an accident and a small engine fire forced them to drop out.

This weekend Long will try to navigate the treacherous turns of the 12 Hours of Sebring, a race he has won once (2005).

"Sebring is our Super Bowl," Long said. "It's the holy grail. To win, you have to have everything together because the track is so challenging and demanding. That's where the training element comes in."

Studies have found race car drivers can sustain heart rates of 120 to 150 beats per minute, about the same level as a serious marathon runner. Research also shows that aerobic and resistance training help drivers handle the g-forces racing generates.

There are benefits of adhering to a training schedule. Drivers suffer fewer injuries because their muscles protect their bones and internal organs. Drivers can better handle the intense heat in the car, 120 degrees or higher, because they start with a lower pulse, and a strong upper body helps a driver steer better when the car is not handling well.

"You're not just sitting on your butt driving," Long said. "In a car, you're basically in a sauna for three hours at a time. It's the equivalent of a brisk jog when you're out there. And you need strength training and a solid core to handle the 3 g's of load and the bumps that come with turns in a race."

The boot camp helped Long get in shape for the season. The tough part is maintaining it. Drivers are on the road 24 days a month.

"It's tough because you try to squeeze in a 45-minute jog at a hotel," Long said. "Traveling takes a lot of energy out of you."

To minimize the traveling, Long decided to take up part-time residence in Belleair in 2007. Long was familiar with the area because his mother lives in St. Pete Beach. But the move was made more because so many races are in Florida and it cut down on air travel to Europe.

"It just made sense to come here," said Long, 29, who was born in Thousand Oaks, Calif. "The weather here is a safe haven for me. And there are a lot more direct flights."

In the offseason, Long rides his bike on the Pinellas Trail and kayaks in Tampa Bay.

"I find ways to stay active," he said. "There's so much to do around here. I have to be around the immediate presence of water, so anything I can do near the beach works for me. It's a great area to stay in shape for the season."


12 Hours of Sebring

What: An American Le Mans Series endurance race over a 3.7-mile, 17-turn circuit in Sebring, in central Florida about 85 miles south of Orlando.

When/where: Qualifying and practice are today and Friday beginning at 8 a.m. The race is 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

Tickets, information: Call toll-free 1-800-626-7223 or (863) 655-1442;

Defending American Le Mans Series driver's champ Patrick Long ready for 12 Hours of Sebring 03/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 9:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Illinois is recruiting a 10-year-old. Where will Lovie Smith be by the time the kid can sign?


    Today in ridiculous recruiting news, Lovie Smith's Illinois football team offered a scholarship to a 10-year-old.

  2. Rays series preview: Who are the Orioles?


    After an off day Thursday, the Rays remain at Tropicana Field for a three-game series against the AL East rival Orioles. Here's the information you need to know about Baltimore before the action kicks off.

    Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman, left, has posted the highest ERA of his career this season, while catcher Welington Castillo, center, has slumped recently.
  3. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.
  4. Morning after off day: Rays ready for slumping O's


    The Rays will attempt tonight to do what so far has been impossible this season: climb four games above .500.

    The Rays expect Evan Longoria to be back in the lineup for tonight's game.
  5. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh


    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.