Bill Auberlen hopes to notch his fourth-consecutive American Le Mans Series GT podium finish on the streets of Baltimore, Md., this weekend. He knows the challenge of racing on a new street course with limited practice time, but he believes BMW Team RLL's experience and preparation will make the difference. Auberlen, of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Dirk Werner of Nürtingen, Germany, will share driving duty in the No. 55 BMW M3 GT in the two-hour race on Saturday.
"We're coming into a street course that nobody's ever been to," Auberlen acknowledged. "What better situation to go than with a team like Rahal Letterman Lanigan? They have a history of going to new tracks and being right on top of their target. The crew have run simulations, tests – you name it, they've done it. Our team won the street course in Long Beach [Calif.] in April and we're ready to do it again in Baltimore. The track wasn't ready for the first practice, so now we're down to one practice and qualifying for the race. It's going to be a very tall order to do well here, but we're all cautiously optimistic that we have the car and the team to do it."
Auberlen and Werner scored their third-straight ALMS GT podium after a powerful race-leading performance at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on Aug. 20. It was Auberlen's 12th podium in three series this season and his fourth with Werner.
Auberlen drove the first race stint, starting from fourth on the 15-car GT grid. He pitted early for fuel and left-side tires, then worked up to take the class lead 69 minutes into the four-hour race. He was ahead by almost 16 seconds when he stopped for a driver change to Werner at 1h27. Werner returned to the track sixth, gained four positions to second, then stayed in the top 10 as the team continued its off-sequence pit strategy. Werner made his final stop for fuel and left tires at the three-hour mark, then took the class lead when the rest of the field pitted 15 minutes later. He relinquished one position to a hard-charging Ferrari, but led his teammates in the No. 56 BMW across the line to give BMW a double podium finish.
"That was a very, very tough weekend," Auberlen said. "We had yellow flags going against us – two in a row that put us to the back of the field – but we kept driving to the front. The third yellow was right at the perfect moment. We got to the lead, ran the lead for awhile, then the Ferrari passed us with just a few laps to go and we finished second, which makes the third podium in a row for us. We're on a roll and gaining in the points towards the championship."
Auberlen and Werner are third in ALMS GT standings after six of nine 2011 races.