Wright Motorsports is set to enter Pirelli World Challenge competition armed with a pair of full-season Porsche 911 GT3 R entries. Returning to the team full-time will be Patrick Long in GT and Michael Schein in GTA. For the SprintX rounds, Patrick Long will be reuniting with fellow Porsche factory driver, Jörg Bergmeister and Michael Schein will be paired with recognized sportscar talent, Jan Heylen.
“As a team owner, I couldn’t be happier with the depth of our Sprint and SprintX lineups”, said Wright Motorsports Principal, John Wright. “I’m looking forward to working with Patrick and Jörg as teammates again and very excited to see what Jan and Mike can do sharing a seat in GTA. It’s been a long offseason, but now we’re ready to kick things off and take care of some unfinished business!”
Consistency is Key
With their sights set on besting 2016’s second place GT and GTA championships, Wright Motorsports is retaining an identical lineup for the Sprint season, with Michael Schein in the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R and America’s lone Porsche factory driver, Patrick Long in the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R.
2016 saw a season of success and redemption for Patrick Long, the 2011 Pirelli World Challenge champion. After joining the John Wright-led team mid-season last year, the California native took second in the championship with three wins and five top-five finishes. Having brushed just seconds away from the GT class title, Long is hungry and poised to be a 2017 contender from the moment he arrives in St. Petersburg.
While he might have been new to the Pirelli World Challenge and the Porsche 911 GT3 R, Michael Schein proved himself to be an exceptionally quick learner in 2016. Despite missing three rounds, the New Yorker ended the season with a strong second place in the GTA championship. He sprayed champagne after fifteen of the seventeen races he contested, eight of those being victory celebrations. Heading into his second year of PWC competition and fourth year with Wright Motorsports, Schein looks to capitalize on his successful performance in the GTA category.
Bergmeister and Heylen Slated to SprintX
The 2017 season marks the debut of the Pirelli World Challenge’s new racing format, which will see five 60-minute SprintX events with two drivers per car. During these rounds, Patrick Long will be teamed up with fellow Porsche factory ace, Jörg Bergmeister, while Michael Schein shares a seat with Belgian stand-out, Jan Heylen.
Bringing a wealth of well-honed knowledge and Porsche racing experience to the table, PWC novice, Jörg Bergmeister, will undoubtedly be a strong asset to the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R. While the German Porsche factory driver carries an extensive resume driving Porsche racecars, his most recent experience comes from the Porsche 911 GT3 R, of which he also contests full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship.
Many could vouch that Patrick Long and Jörg Bergmeister have already proven themselves to be a winning combination. Prior to the 2017 season, the duo has earned three championships in seven seasons together and shared the top step of the podium at prestigious events such as the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the 12 Hours of Sebring. The last time Long and Bergmeister contested a full season together was in 2012, when Wright Motorsports served as a technical partner for their Flying Lizard Motorsports program.
“Seeing Patrick and Jörg back together brings a smile to my face, as I’m sure it does for many fans of the driver duo from the 911 GT3 RSR Flying Lizard Motorsport days,” said Jens Walther, president and CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America.
“The Flying Lizard team was one of the most popular and successful customer teams in recent memory, with multiple championships to their credit. The two will definitely add excitement to the growing PWC SprintX format.”
Capping off the SprintX roster will be sports car racing veteran, Jan Heylen. Heylen holds a long-standing relationship with Wright Motorsports and Michael Schein, having successfully competed and coached with the Ohio-based team for many seasons. Originating from a strong open-wheel background in Champ car, Renault Eurocup, and F3000, the Belgian has seen countless podiums, driving Wright Motorsports prepared Porsche racecars in the endurance format. Though new PWC competition, Heylen will have no problem adjusting to his ride with experience driving a Porsche 911 GT3R in this year’s Rolex 24.
The 2017 Pirelli World Challenge will kick off with Rounds 1 and 2 at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg March 10-12. The first SprintX event will take place April 28-30 at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR).
Patrick Long // No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R
I’m very grateful to be back for another shot at the championship with the Wright Motorsports team. It’s also great to back in a car with my long time co-driver Jörg Bergmeister. This will be our eighth time running a season championship as teammates since 2004! Jörg is a tremendous competitor and always pushes every aspect of the program to be its very best, including his teammate! We’ve shared a lot of very fond memories and victories in the past and have many more to make in the coming races.
Michael Schein // No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R
I’m excited to get back to work with the whole Wright Motorsports team in the Porsche 911 GT3R. We learned a good deal about the car last year and I expect us to be strong out of the gate. I’m happy to see a few more competitors on the GTA grid for this year. It should make for some good racing. Sprint X will be a new experience for me as I have never had to do a driver change. However, the 60 second minimum stop time will give us plenty of time to get the change done. I’m looking forward to sharing the car with Jan. We’ve known each other for a few years now and he has been a big part of improving my abilities. We get along very well and I think we will be a strong pairing. Jan is one of the best drivers out there, it will be a great experience being able to compete together. Consistency is key, and it’s my goal to finish as high as possible in the championship this year.
Jörg Bergmeister // No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R // SprintX
I’m really happy to be sharing a car with Patrick again. The Pirelli World Challenge is going to be a new series for me and I’m excited for the challenge. Patrick has already been very successful in this championship so I’m looking forward to helping him with some unfinished business. Working with John Wright and Wright Motorsports is also something that I have done successfully over the years. We’ve already had a very good test with the team and hopefully that will translate to many successful races for us during the SprintX season.
Jan Heylen // No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R // SprintX
It’s so nice to finally be a part of the Pirelli World Challenge. Then the fact that I get to do it with Wright Motorsports and Mike Schein makes it even better. I’ve been working with John Wright for four years now and started coaching Mike in his first year of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge , so everyone there is family to me. Mike is certainly one of the quicker GTA guys out there well so I’m confident that we have a great shot at this. It’s also nice to be in a car next to Patrick and Jörg. There will be some good competition within the team and I like that. Now I’m ready to get things started!
Source. Porsche/Carlin Sanderson