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Long ready for VIR

SoVaNow.com / July 23, 2014
Drivers from the Continental Tire SportsCar series will be one of the taking part in the big United Sports Car Championship weekend at Virginia International Raceway Aug. 22-24.

Driving that weekend will be Raleigh, N.C.’s Tom Long.

Long is a driver and team manager for Freedom Autosports. He grew up as a driver behind the wheel of Mazdas and is a product of the Mazda ladder system. He started behind the wheel of Spec Miatas and worked into the professional ranks.

Long drives in the Tudor United Sports Car Championship series in the Mazda Prototype class ranks. Long also does double duty, competing in the Continental Tire series as well.

The Continental Tire SportsCar circuit will race at VIR on Saturday, Aug. 23.

Long’s father, Glenn Long, is the owner of Long Road Racing. That company provides professional driver coaching, race rentals and car prep. The shop is supporting the efforts of selected Continental Tire Sports Cars competitors.

Long is familiar with VIR having spent 45-50 days this year alone.

The Tudor Series will not bring the Prototype class to VIR, but Long is more than satisfied to compete in the developmental Continental Tire Series, something akin to NASCAR’s Nationwide Series in terms of status behind the Sprint Cup. The United Sports Car Championship circuit is the top U.S. circuit for sports car action in the USA.

There is crossover between the United Sports Car circuit and the Continental tour. “There are a lot of drivers who will do both series,” said Long.

The Continental series consists of street-based cars, built into race cars. The Tudor cars “are purpose-built race cars, never were street cars,” said Long.

Long will drive a Mazda MX-5 on the Continental circuit.

“A small, nimble car that competes against other names like BMW, Honda, Volkswagen,” Long said. The competition on the Continental circuit “is very interesting, because each car has a strength and weakness ... IMSA (the sanctioning body) gets all the competition to be very similar.”.

“It’s some of the best racing. Arguably, sometimes it’s just as good, if not better, than the Tudor Sports Car (circuit). You have these street stock cars and guys are just fighting seven-wide sometimes trying to get to the finish line first,” said Long.

“VIR really lends itself to great racing, because you have a lot of long straightaways, where cars can get good draft and create a good passing opportunity, going into the brake zone. Now with the widening of the track, we’ve gotten a whole lot more opportunity to race two, three wide through some of these corners. It’s going to really add to the elements for the fans,” said Long.

As for his efforts in the Prototype class, Long said he has had a fun season. It’s his first campaign in the Prototypes.

“It’s Mazda’s first year coming back into the Prototypes. We’re developing a new, SKYACTIV diesel engine,” said Long. “This new engine is a turbo-charged, 2.2 liter. Running a four-cylinder, 2.2 liter turbo diesel engine against V-8 engines has been quite a development feat. It’s been a challenge, but the thing Mazda has been doing is keeping their head down, working hard. We’ve been making progress.”

Long and the team recently posted a sixth place effort at Mosport, the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

The American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports car circuit has worked well, as the United Sports Car Championship, he said.

“We’ve gotten all the drivers under one group. We’ve gotten all the teams, all the manufacturers. It’s made the racing and the competition that much stronger,” said Long.

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