Bill Auberlen will have four opportunities to chase wins, records and championships in 2006 -- all in BMWs. The Redondo Beach, Calif., driver will compete in four sports-car series, driving a BMW M3 in the American Le Mans Series, Rolex Sports Car Series and Grand-Am Cup, and a BMW 325i in selected Speed World Challenge Touring Car Championship races.
This year is the 10th anniversary of Auberlen's first laps in a BMW. He was quick from the start, setting the fastest GTS-2 lap in his first race in a BMW M3, in May, 1996. He followed with a record class pole position three months later. In the past decade, he has earned four of his six professional championships with BMW. The manufacturer has paced him to 34 pole positions, 46 wins, 75 podium finishes, 42 fastest race laps and 68 records.
In 2006, Auberlen's primary duty will be driving a BMW Team PTG M3 in the American Le Mans Series. He hopes to add to his 27 previous wins with the team.
"My best years in racing have been with BMW in the American Le Mans Series and I'm absolutely over the moon to go back with BMW Team PTG and my teammates to compete at the highest level of sports-car racing," he said.
Auberlen will find another familiar seat in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3, his charge for Grand-Am Cup competition, and in the team's No. 2 BMW 325i, which he'll race in the Speed World Challenge Touring Car Championship.
"Whenever I've been in a Turner car in Cup or World Challenge, we've had a lot of success. We've had two championships and a ton of wins together," he said. "We grin at each other because I know they do a great job and I hope they have faith in me for doing a good job. It's just a great relationship."
Auberlen will also race the No. 05 Sigalsport BMW Team M3 in the Rolex Sports Car Series -- the same car he drove to three series wins last year. With most Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup races on the same tracks, he will have double opportunities to fine-tune car setup.
"This year I'm starting a new relationship with Sigalsport and their BMW M3 team," he said. "They have good people behind it and the cars are proven and very fast. I'm happy to be there and glad my co-driver Matt Alhadeff and the team owner Gene Sigal have selected me to be their guy.
"The Grand-Am Cup car and the Rolex GT car are on the same exact platform, so if I get the package on one car, I can adjust the setup on the other car prior to even hitting the track. That's how similar they are. It's a big advantage to go from one to the other -- I'll get double track time in virtually the same car."
A dream season? Auberlen thinks so: "The BMW M3 is my favorite car to drive, so to put me in my favorite car in three different series is about as good as it gets."
Auberlen will start his BMW charge this week. He will test the PTG BMW M3 at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla., then travel north to Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., to drive the Turner Motorsport M3 in a Grand-Am Cup race on Jan. 27 and the Sigalsport M3 in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28 and 29.