Bill Auberlen will continue to chase championships and records this year, both on and off track. He will compete in three series -- the Rolex Sports Car Series, Grand-Am Cup and American Le Mans Series -- and is close to completing a unique custom motorcycle. He is hoping to match his record-setting 2004 season, when he won the Rolex Series GT driver championship and the SCCA Speed World Challenge Touring Car Championship,
Auberlen, of Redondo Beach, Calif., will start the season in two BMW M3s, driving in the Feb. 5 and 6 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the first Rolex Series race of the season, and in the Grand-Am Cup season opener on Feb. 4. Both events will run on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway infield road course in Daytona Beach, Fla.
"It's the same car in both series so it's really good, just slightly different tuning versions of them," Auberlen noted. "This is my 10th year with BMW, so I have a lot of experience in M3s to help get them on track, full speed, straightaway."
Auberlen will share the No. 21 BMW Team PTG M3 in the Rolex 24 with Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa., Joey Hand of Sacramento, Calif., and Ian James of Kissimmee, Fla.
Challenge to Cup
Auberlen and Turner Motorsport won the Speed World Challenge touring car championship in 2003 and 2004. They decided to try Grand-Am Cup endurance racing this year, adding Justin Marks of San Francisco as Auberlen's co-driver in the No. 96 BMW M3.
"Grand-Am Cup is an extension of what we did last year. We did World Challenge Touring and we won the championship two years in a row, so we decided to try something very different. We're still running a BMW, but we're running a whole new series," Auberlen said. "We have a very strong car, we have a great team and I'm hoping Justin and I can put our heads down and win it this year."
Ironically, Auberlen and Marks are co-drivers in Grand-Am Cup, competitors in the Rolex Series.
Auberlen has completed extensive winter testing with Panoz Motor Sports, developing the No. 50 Panoz Esperante GTLM that he'll drive in the American Le Mans Series.
"We've been doing a lot of development in the last two months and it shows great promise," Auberlen reported. "I can't wait until we debut this car and the team; I can't wait to drive those first laps at Sebring [International Raceway, in the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 19]. Sebring is one of my favorite tracks in the world, and if this car runs as good in the race as it's been in testing, we should have a great shot."
Auberlen enjoys automotive development as much as racing. "I'm a total gearhead," he acknowledged. "When I'm away from the race track, I'm always developing something, whether it be my boat or my motorcycle. I'm always doing exactly what we do at the race track with management systems and computers. It's just an extension of what I love to do. When you can make a difference, it's even more satisfying, when you can jump into the computer and change the geometry on the suspension or change the setup, and the car just keeps responding, going faster, faster, faster."
Auberlen is building a custom motorcycle that already has the attention of bike enthusiasts. It has major engine power, plus all the technology of a finely tuned race car.
"I'm building a bike that's going to set the world on fire when it's done," he vowed. "I got the biggest motor I could find, which was 145 cubic inches, just shy of three liters. I turbo-charged it and put a MoTeC fuel-management system on it from my race car. I put a MoTeC dash on it, I put traction-control on it, I put every single [racing] system that I ever had. It should make 410 to 420 horsepower. We've been working on it for six months, so I can't wait 'til it's done."