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Patrick Lindsey, On The Brink Of A WEC Title

DSC gets to know Patrick Lindsey, who heads to Le Mans in the GTE Am points lead with Project 1

What a season it’s been for American WEC debutant Patrick Lindsey. After a rollercoaster maiden campaign with Team Project 1 in the GTE Am class, he finds himself in contention for the title with just one race to go, at Le Mans.

Lindsey, who helps run Park Place Motorsports and competes regularly in IMSA, took a chance and stepped into the world championship and has consistently impressed. He, Jorg Bergmeister and Egidio Perfetti have been challenging all season long in the most competitive GTE Am grid the championship has ever seen and are one strong performance away from a huge accomplishment.

It’s been a wild ride for the team in getting to this point. With a race win at Fuji, some podium finishes, and seismic change in the points standings caused by Dempsey Proton Racing’s penalty.

So before Lindsey hits the track during Le Mans week, DSC decided to sit down at length with him to learn a bit more about where his passion for motorsport came from, how his first WEC has gone, and how he feels ahead of the season finale.

Let’s start with your route into motorsport. As apparently you used to street race, and drag race trucks before taking to the track?

“Yeah! When you’re young and you can’t afford to do anything on a race track you play with whatever toys you have. My buddies and I would go street racing, and hold grudge matches for 20 bucks or so. Other kids might hang out with a beer when their parents were out of town. I’d go play with cars and make a bit of money on the side.

Other kids might hang out with a beer when their parents were out of town. I’d go play with cars and make a bit of money on the side.

“Motorsport isn’t a family thing for me. I’ve always chased challenges. Road racing presented me a great challenge. The car has to put up with so much and a driver has to understand what he’s driving. So that led me to road racing. It’s just so expensive. Street racing, drag racing, was a filler until I could afford to go road racing.”

Did you know at the time you’d spent years working your way up the motorsport ladder? Was that the goal?

“I thought it would be just a hobby and maybe one day do door-to-door racing. When I got my licence I had a lot of fun, and wanted to take steps. But it got more and more expensive, so finding ways to go racing is so difficult. I didn’t think I’d ever get here though.

“Trying to find budget and sponsorship is hard, but the racing at a high level is so attractive.”

And you’ve risen up the ladder fast! You’ve been racing in major international sportscar races for a while now.

“Yeah, the sprint stuff I used to do with Speed Vision, before it broke out to be World Challenge, now of course it’s Blancpain. Back then it was racing against everyone, against people being paid to drive, now I’m only racing Silvers in my class.

“But to go racing, I’ve gone towards ownership and team managing, as opposed to being a driver coach and being paid to drive. I wanted to be able to come and do this at my own choosing, rather than taking whatever I could get.”

So tell me about Park Place, what’s the story behind the team?

“Its name comes from the dealership group, which I have nothing to do with, except we run a motorsport programme under their name and are sponsored by Porsche stores in Dallas. We take that very seriously because it’s a very high-end brand, with big beautiful dealerships. They have a high expectation of how their brand looks. So as we develop our client programmes in motorsport, we try and emulate their level of service in what we do.

“It’s been a great match, even though we are two separate entities.”

How did that link come together?

“We were introduced to them in late 2012 and had a joint venture in 2013. It lasted eight or nine months. It was a partnership between the dealer and the race team to try and develop a race team. But the business didn’t make sense to the dealership group, it was out of their wheelhouse.

“It was my brother and I who owned the team as a pair when we did the deal with Park Place. They didn’t see the value or revenue. They weren’t interested in it. So we dissolved the partnership as the race team continued to do high-level racing, and the dealership sold cars. They’ve benefitted from the exposure, so we’ve done a sponsorship thing through Porsche, as they wanted to see a dealership go racing.

“There was a gap after Brumos stopped, as there wasn’t a dealer in top-level sportscar racing in North America.

“Porsche pushed Park Place and Park Place Motorsports to do a sponsorship deal to support the race team.”

Do you enjoy it? It must be hard work running that sort of operation, especially as it’s not your only job?

“From the management side of things, I ran it almost exclusively in 2015 and part of 2016. Now we have Mike Johnson, who has been a stable in team management and strategy. He runs it now. There are a lot of moving parts, it’s not like Europe, logistically it’s much more difficult.

“I had to chase a different career opportunity, with Mira Vista Aviation, it’s the charter aviation company I am now president of. I had to move away from the day-to-day management of the race team because of that. So I either show up as a driver now or show up for meetings on strategy. I’m not so much a mover and shaker now.

“Mira Vista is very busy, we’re trying to grow that, so I need to be further removed from the race team as a manager. My wife does all of our PR and Marketing for Park Place, for instance, she is helping out, and we recently moved everything to Dallas, because a race team from California sponsored by a dealer in Dallas didn’t make a lot of sense, it’s hard to connect the dots. We’re now a couple of hundred metres from the showroom floor, we have a race shop and are supporting client programmes.

“We’re now introducing motorsport to their clients, and they know that service is available to them if they want to learn how to drive on a track in a relaxed, friendly environment. We supply that now. We can take a client from driving a Porsche they just bought for the road, to racing at Le Mans.”

So, you’re now in the WEC. Tell me about the link between Park Place and Project 1? It’s not just you as a driver is it?

“When I first met (Project 1’s) Hans-Bernd Kamps, he said ‘we want to do WEC, you want to do WEC, let’s figure something out’. It was Jens Welter at Porsche North America who introduced us, and we put a deal together for the Super Season. They had a client in Edigio Perfetti, Jorg and I brought ourselves, he brought insight into Porsche Motorsport, and myself as a Gentlemen driver brought budget and the brand Park Place.

“It’s funny, they didn’t go to GT3, they went straight from Cup racing to WEC. There were teething pains, last year, but they’ve come a long way. There’s still fine-tuning to be done, but they’re on top of things. They’ll do whatever it takes. We’re all eye-to-eye.”

So are you involved in the Project 1 ELMS programme that has since come together too?

“Unfortunately not. Last year Park Place did a partial season in GTD, and this year we committed to a full programme. Because of that, I didn’t have the bandwidth to pursue that.

“We’re now talking about WEC for 2019/20.”

Before that though, Le Mans is coming up, and you’re leading the championship!

“I think the expectation going into the season was the same as in IMSA, execute on track and in the pits, no mistakes, no penalties, no errors on strategy. The overall goal is to not shoot ourselves in the foot. Jorg has decades of experience, and we’ve come off a run in GTD, we’re confident that we could take that form to WEC, and run a programme without errors.

“Spa last year was difficult, and at Le Mans we had a brake issue that cost us third place, but putting those aside it’s been a flawless run, podiums all the way. Whenever you win a race, you expect to win more, you get more confident, and that’s how we feel.

And you didn’t expect to be leading the title until late last year right?

“Of course there were deciding factors that changed the title race off the track. It’s disappointing, but we keep racing and don’t worry about the other teams. We expect to make no errors at Le Mans. Le Mans is more points, you can score 38. We’ll go into Le Mans with our heads down to finish out the championship.”

Personally, just how much have you enjoyed it? The car, the travel?

“When I first got in the 911 RSR, I didn’t like it, because it was so different from the GT3 R. It handles truly like a mid-engined car and it took getting used to. A Porsche usually drives like a Porsche, but this didn’t feel like one. But once I got used to it, I realised it’s a dream to drive. Now I want to push on with Project 1 in 2019/20, as I don’t want to say goodbye to this car.

Now I want to push on with Project 1 in 2019/20, as I don’t want to say goodbye to this car.

“And to be honest, another reason I wanted to do this was to expand my horizons. After so many seasons in the states, it gets old. I wanted to travel, see new circuits and experience international racing. For me, when I stepped off the plane in Japan I was in awe, I enjoyed the country as much as winning the event. That was my first time to Asia, it was special.

“For Americans, our country is so big it’s rare we leave our own country. In Europe, it’s a different experience, so this has been a blast.”

Do you find the WEC a fun championship to be a part of? How does it compare to IMSA?

“It’s not that I had a bad time in IMSA, but the bad word there is BoP. In terms of the field and paddock, there’s nothing better than IMSA. In the WEC it’s top flight teams, it’s nice, there are no complaints, but honestly, it’s similar.

“What is different though is that because you’re always in a new country, most of us are away from home and we all experience it together. It elevates everyone’s perception of the event, we want to represent our country abroad. We get to do that every race here. It’s special. I want to represent America the best I can, and we’re leading the championship.

“The WEC and FIA do pomp and circumstance better than IMSA. That’ll hurt Scott Atherton to hear because they have stepped up their game. But in IMSA, fans are dispersed around the track, the FIA tries to bring the show to the pits, to the stands. When you do have pre-race fan walks, announcing of the drivers, you feel like you’re in a stadium.

“The WEC puts on a better show for fans because of that. In IMSA it’s good, but it’s different. You two vary.”

What would it mean to win the title?

“I haven’t thought about it. I’ve rarely been in a position to win championships. For now nothing has changed in our outlook. Now though, there’s more on the line, there’s more to lose.

“If we celebrate a world championship after Le Mans, it’ll be special, it’ll be my first, and it’ll be dear to me, as the effort and hard work that’s gone into this in my racing over the last decade and a half is crazy. I’ve had lots of near misses, so I’ll celebrate and try and do it again.

“There are a lot more factors to consider at Le Mans. I felt my performance at Le Mans wasn’t good last year, and even then we were fourth towards the end before our issue. I feel that if we do what we know we can. I have confidence. Luck will play a part. But you can’t control that.

“We’ll take it lap by lap.”