Bill Auberlen teleconference, part 1

Bill Auberlen Teleconference Transcript An Interview with Two-Time Rolex Series GT Champion NATE SIEBENS: Good evening, everybody. Thanks for joining us on our Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve...

Bill Auberlen Teleconference Transcript
An Interview with Two-Time Rolex Series GT Champion

NATE SIEBENS: Good evening, everybody. Thanks for joining us on our Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve media teleconference. This evening we're joined by two-time Rolex Series GT champion Bill Auberlen, driver of the No. 05 Sigalsport BMW M3. Bill will be racing in this weekend's Rolex Series GT Challenge at Lime Rock Park a week from today. Bill will also be participating in the Grand-Am Cup Series event earlier in the day.

Without further ado, let's go ahead and welcome Bill to the call. Bill, just talk a little bit about how it feels to be going back to Lime Rock Park. Obviously, it's a historic venue and I understand you've had some success there in the past. Talk about that.

BILL AUBERLEN: It's great that Grand-Am is going back there. You can't keep me away from Lime Rock very long. I've been going back year after year. For some reason, that track is pretty good to me. I think I've won there, I want to say, four out of the last five years with different events that I've run. It's been very good to me. It is a great piece of the world. I'm really happy to be running two events there on Monday.

NATE SIEBENS: Talk a little bit about some of the challenges of racing there at Lime Rock. Also, talk about the tradition of sports car racing that Lime Rock has, particularly on Memorial Day weekend.

BILL AUBERLEN: This is truly a tradition. I've been coming here for as long as I can remember on this weekend. What's really nice is we have the Sunday break. We watch the Indianapolis 500 usually or something like that. We come back on Monday. It's got a different feel to it. To be on such a big weekend, a holiday weekend like this, a lot of people come out. You will find those hills completely packed with people.

To do well in front of them is a big bonus.  To be in such a nice part of
the country is fantastic.  It is one of the races that I take my wife to
every single year.  I just love it.

NATE SIEBENS: We're all looking forward to it. With that, we'll open it up to questions from our friends in the media.

Q: There's at least one Daytona Prototype owner that won't be going to Lime Rock. This team owner has won the Daytona 24, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Sebring, a number of races. I'm curious, why is it that you don't find yourself presently racing with a top-shelf Prototype-style team? I don't want to denigrate the BMW team you're running with now, but in the grand scheme of things, the Prototype series seems to be the top of the heap. I'm curious as to why you're not there.

BILL AUBERLEN: Well, there's a simple reason for it. I've been contracted to the BMW factory, whether it be BMW AG or BMW North America, for the last 10 and a half years. Every time I renegotiate my contract for the next year, it says, 'Here is what we want you to drive, here is what we don't want you to drive.' When I say 'Daytona Prototype,' they say, 'If we you want to do it, we want you in with a BMW motor.' They make that the stipulation.

This year I got the opportunity to drive with Southard Racing in their Daytona Prototype in Long Beach. It was a one-off race. I showed up at Long Beach and went from mid-pack up to the front and finished third.

Let me tell you, it is great. I'm pushing pretty hard to make sure there's a BMW-powered Prototype team there next year for me to sit in. If you notice, everything I drive is BMW powered. That's based on my contract. Sure enough, the big problem with that is there's not a lot of BMW-powered Prototype cars for me to hop into.

Q: You motocrossed way back when. I'm curious to know what it was that drove you to make that switch from the two-wheel to four-wheel variety of motorsports?

BILL AUBERLEN: My dad came from Stuttgart, Germany. His dream was to come to America and race cars. That was his dream. He came over and he didn't have a job, but he had a will and a desire to want to do it. He raced motorcycles in the desert. Me being a five-year-old kid and a four-year-old kid, growing up, that's all I wanted to do, was race motorcycles.

Then I started to watch my dad get into Porsche owners club at a real low level. I followed him as an eight-year-old kid to all the races, loving it. Then he came to your end of town, ran a 24-hour race in just a makeshift Porsche 911 RSR. I was on the crew, and I was lucky enough to start driving the truck around the country. Eventually when I turned 17, I got the opportunity to drive Daytona with him in that Porsche.

That's how I kind of made the switch from motorcycles to cars, I was following my dad. It was my dream to follow my dad wherever he went. He was racing. Man, it just made it really enjoyable.

Q: What was it that got you and BMW hooked up together?

BILL AUBERLEN: It's a funny story actually. There was a year that I had to run my own team. It was me and a whole bunch of my friends. We'd work at our Porsche repair shop during the day from eight to five. From five to 12 every single night for three years we worked on this Mazda RX-7. We raced it around the country in our little moving van. It was a little joke.

We became so effective at running this little car that we wound up winning eight races in a row. We still have records in IMSA that stand with that little car.

BMW came out with John Paul Jr., David Donohue, Pete Halsmer, and it was Tom Milner running their program. They never won. They never beat us. They never qualified on the pole. They couldn't beat us. Everything was in our way with the rules.

After about two years of that, I heard that BMW was going to lose their program. Nothing was going for me really right, so I said, 'You know what, I'm going to try a new technique and twist their arm a little bit.' I twisted their arm, called them and said, 'I'll leave my Mazda at home.' This was for Texas World Speedway. 'I'll leave my Mazda at home, you guys put me in one of your cars.' I didn't think it would work, but what harm would it do.

They called me back about an hour later and said, 'You know what, we'll do it.' They put me in a car. It worked out that the car they stuck me in was super fast. I led the race, but the car broke and we still didn't win. The next race we went to, Sears Point, we finished one, two, three. They hired me on to run with them. I've been with them ever since.

Q: Speaking of that BMW program, in 2000 you were driving a V-12 LMR at Road Atlanta. You kind of took off, didn't you?

BILL AUBERLEN: I took off backwards. We knew that these flat-bottom cars were a little bit unstable when air would come across the nose differently. Mercedes had these big issues in Le Mans where they flipped three times. This is funny. Coming out of motocross racing, if you go off a jump and the rear wheel is down, you hit the brake and it comes right on over. I always told myself, 'If ever it's going to go up, how hard would it be to hit the brakes, the nose is going to come right down.' This seems really like a very simple train of thought, right?

I was racing with the Olive Garden, Rafanelli car, going down the back straight. He saw I had a run on him. He covered up the front of my car with his car, and I must have been six inches behind this guy. We're going 170 miles an hour, and I felt the buffeting on my head. I thought, 'That's pretty close.' Believe it or not, my head went forward, my visor opened while I was going forward. I thought, 'This is all kind of wrong.' All of a sudden it took off, went way up in the air and flipped over. Like a rollercoaster ride, you get bent over with the g force. At that point I was thinking, 'Man, I hope this goes all the way over.' Sure enough, went all the way over and all four wheels fell off. There was this horrendous noise, an engine screaming away. Not only was I so brilliant at not hitting the brakes when it went over, I was still flat on the floor with the accelerator.

As long as you don't hit something that stops you hard at the end, it doesn't hurt that bad. This one didn't hurt at all.

Q: You've won with a couple different cars at Lime Rock. Is there much of a difference in the way you run them or is it just a matter of, once you've gotten that course down, it doesn't really matter what car you jump in there?

BILL AUBERLEN: We're going to find that out this weekend hopefully. But, you know, the weird thing is how hard is that track? That track has a few right turns and one left-hand turn. It really cannot be that difficult.

For some reason, maybe I just had good cars under me year after year. I've been lucky, but I've kind of been able to just have really good success there. I'm not sure why because that track is not that hard. Especially when it rains, I've had really good luck there.

There's no real cut and dry answer. It just comes. I mean, who knows. The BMW this year is a little bit -- it's not really the fastest car this year. We're struggling. They just gave us 75 pounds off the car just now. We're going to take the lead out and see if it actually goes a little bit quicker. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Q: Do you drive the cars differently at Lime Rock depending on which car you jump in?

BILL AUBERLEN: Every car has to be driven differently, for sure. I've driven the 333 Ferraris there, Riley & Scotts there, the Panoz there, Mazda RX-7, BMW. You name it, I've driven it there. Every one wants its own bit of technique, that is for sure. No two cars drive exactly the same.

I've always been fortunate enough to be able to jump right out of a GT car to a GS car to an IT car to a Prototype car. To me, they're all the same. You get in, if you can drive a race car, you can sort of swing anything. You just have to put your head down, remember that you either have carbon brakes or steel brakes. The biggest difference is the braking zones and the amount of downforce you carry. Once you sort of get your head screwed on straight, you can make them all go fast.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Bill Auberlen , Pete Halsmer , David Donohue , John Paul