Bill Auberlen - Mid-Ohio podium
Bill Auberlen's rain talent took him to another podium finish on Saturday, as a downpour ended the American Le Mans Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. The Redondo Beach, Calif., driver watched the competition spin off track when heavy rain hit late in the race, but he held his No. 55 BMW Team RLL BMW M3 GT steady for the podium finish.
Auberlen's co-driver, Dirk Werner of Nürtingen, Germany, qualified the M3 second on the 15-car GT grid. Werner drove the first race stint, handing off to Auberlen from fifth place after 54 minutes of the two-hour 45-minute race. Auberlen returned to the track third after a fast pitstop, but a tap from his teammate and deteriorating track conditions put him back to sixth. He stopped for rain tires just before the two-hour mark, then gained three positions to finish third in class.
"It was the worst rain conditions I've ever been in," he explained. "The standing water was inches deep. You would shift from third to fourth to fifth to sixth and at any moment, you could hydroplane, turn the car sideways and take off at 150 miles an hour. That made it very unsettling. It was raining so powerfully that every time you got to a corner, it was different from the lap before, and even worse."
Auberlen noted the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio road course is always a challenge, but the team's persistence paid off.
"The track has always been very difficult for us – we go there and we don't have the secrets unlocked. Every other track, we're really good," he said. "But BMW North America and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dunlop were uplifing and inspirational. They got us first and second in qualifying. When we struggled in the race, they gave us great support and great pitstops and got us third place, on the podium.
"Their positive attitude is never-wavering. After every session, we [the drivers] write reports. They take every word that we write in those reports, they decipher them and they unlock every little item in the car, they turn every screw in the right direction, and the car just gets better and better and better."
Auberlen and Werner remain third in 2011 American Le Mans Series GT standings after five of nine races. The next race is set for Aug. 20 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., a track that has produced great results for Auberlen and BMW.
"We leave our worst track and we head to our best track, where we've had the most success," he noted. "Everybody's looking forward to it."