Bill Auberlen - Virginia double podium
Bill Auberlen showed his all-weather driving expertise at Virginia International Raceway on May 14, adding two more podium finishes to his 2011 tally. The Redondo Beach, Calif., driver set the fastest race lap en route to second place in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race, then followed with third in the Rolex Sports Car Series race. Both races were slowed by heavy rain and lengthy caution periods that consumed more than half of the scheduled race times.
Auberlen shared the podium finishes with his co-driver Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto and the crack Turner Motorsport team. The team and drivers continue to lead the championship standings in both Grand-Am series, with three wins and seven podiums in eight races so far this season.
"We've only been off the podium one race all year long," Auberlen noted. "The Turner team, Paul Dalla Lana and I did exactly what we want to do – we want to keep beating the people who are in the points."
In the Continental race, Dalla Lana started the No. 96 BMW M3 from 11th on the 25-car GS grid and gained four positions before handing off to Auberlen. Auberlen returned to the track 23rd in class and moved up to second before pitting for fuel and tires. He worked through the field again, from 12th to second, dropped back one spot, then charged to second on the last lap of the 2.5-hour race. He set the fastest race lap late in the race, lapping the 3.27-mile Alton, Va., road course in two minutes 3.144 seconds at an average speed of 95.595 mph.
Auberlen and Dalla Lana had little time to celebrate – they raced from post-race interviews back to the grid for the feature Rolex Series race. Dalla Lana started the No. 94 BMW M3 from ninth on the GT-class grid. He moved up to fifth before pitting for a driver change to Auberlen. With visibility hampered by both weather and wiper issues, the rain-master raced from 12th to third, pitted for fuel and tires, then did it again, moving up from 14th to third. After dicing with his competitors through the 2.75-hour race, Auberlen held fast for the final podium position.
"The series has taken revs away ...
He noted series rule changes have slowed the BMWs, but the team's talent was still evident in the podium finishes.
"The series has taken revs away, which hurts our motor performance, and they've added weight to our car. On the short tracks, it didn't show up as much, but when we got to the first long track [Virginia], it showed up and we struggled. We don't have the speed of the cars at the front," he acknowledged.
"The GT race started in pouring rain. I don't know how Paul kept it on the road, but he drove all the way up to fifth place in the wet! We had some wiper problems and we had mud on the windshield, but the team recovered and adjusted really fast. We fought through all of that to finish third and extend our points lead. That was the objective – to get as many points as we can and try to win this championship."
-source: bill auberlen PR