Rising young American road racing star Patrick Long will race full-time in the American Le Mans Series in 2004 with The Racers Group team as New Century Mortgage steps up as a major sponsor for the California-based sports car racing organisation.

The Racers Group also announced that team owner Kevin Buckler, a driver in the ALMS since the inception of the series and a multi-time GT class race winner, will step out of the driver's seat to manage the team on a full-time basis.

Cort Wagner the inaugural GT class driving champion of the ALMS in 1999, will co-drive with Long in the team's #66 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, creating an All-California team for the ALMS assault.

Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, the 22-year-old Long became a Porsche factory driver in 2003 and has been racing in Europe for six years.

The team will also run a second Porsche in New Century Mortgage livery in the American Le Mans Series, with the drivers to be named.

"The opportunity that's facing us this year is incredible, and by combining the talents of all the players involved, we'll take the team to the next level," said Buckler. "I can't say enough about the opportunity that has been given to us by New Century Mortgage and the Porsche factory. I'm looking forward to showing what a properly-funded, professionally-organised effort can do for its sponsor to meet their business objectives through racing."

"I hope our efforts this year will help all of ALMS and especially GT as a platform from which to help other team's partners meet their goals," he said. "We will definitely be turning it up a notch."

"New Century is very excited to support The Racers Group for the 2004 ALMS season," said Pat Flanagan, president of New Century Mortgage, a leading nationwide specialty mortgage banking company. "We are pleased to be associated both with the team and Porsche. Speed, performance and reliability have made TRG and Porsche leaders in sports car racing and are the same ideals that New Century brings to the mortgage community through our FastQual technology."

Long is being promoted from the Porsche Juniors team, where he spent the 2003 season racing in the Porsche Carrera and Supercup Series. Long excelled in his first year, scoring three wins and two poles in German and UK Carrera Cup races and taking two podium finishes and a pole in the Supercup. He made his ALMS debut by co-driving with Buckler and Wagner in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, the final race of the 2003 season.

"When I raced at Petit Le Mans, I was impressed by the level of professionalism that the team displayed and was happy with the progress that we made," said Long. "There was a certain level of comfort that we were able to establish. I felt like it was very easy to fit in, and all of this makes me feel that the 2004 season won't be like a blind date."

Wagner welcomed the chance to team with Long in ALMS competition.

"It's an incredible opportunity to be part of an American Dream Team," said Wagner, the 1999 Porsche Cup champion. "Patrick being a works driver brings a lot to the level of competitiveness for our effort. It's going to be a big year."

The announcement by The Racers Group was praised by Scott Atherton, president and CEO of the ALMS.

"We welcome New Century Mortgage and are pleased that another large and growing corporation has recognized the value of being involved in the ALMS," said Atherton.

"We are also pleased that Porsche has made the commitment to provide a competitive place in the series for an exciting young American driver such as Patrick Long," Atherton added. "Porsche has been very actively involved in the series since its inception and this is another example of its commitment to the ALMS."

The 2004 ALMS season begins with the 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway March 17-20.



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