Auberlen and Gleason Hold Off Competition in Grand-Am KONI Challenge GS Race at Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres TROIS-RIVIERES, Quebec, Canada (August 19, 2007) -- Sports car star Bill Auberlen took the lead with 15 minutes remaining in ...
Auberlen and Gleason Hold Off Competition in Grand-Am KONI Challenge GS Race at Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres
TROIS-RIVIERES, Quebec, Canada (August 19, 2007) -- Sports car star Bill Auberlen took the lead with 15 minutes remaining in Sunday's two-hour Grand-Am KONI Challenge Grand Sport (GS) race and went on to win at the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres for the second time in three years in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 he co-drove with Chris Gleason.
Auberlen drove all but the first eight laps of the 90-lap race and took the lead for the second and final time when Scott Maxwell pitted while leading during the race's third and final caution period on lap 77. On the restart, Andy Lally pressured Auberlen until the finish but was never able to pass for the lead. Auberlen led Lally's No. 41 TRG Porsche 997 across the finish line by a tight .267 of a second as the pair of Grand-Am champions raced each other hard but clean for the final 10 laps.
"Before we came into the pits, we had a 13-second lead, but after the pit stop I had old tires and we somehow lost 10 seconds off the lead," said Auberlen, who won here in 2005 in the same Turner BMW with Justin Marks. "Lally came out right behind me, but luckily he didn't catch me. It was a phenomenal race. I lost sight of him so many times in my mirror; it was really tough. Chris did an awesome job in the beginning. We thought this track was going to be a brake problem for us, but the Turner Motorsport team did a great job setting up, and we didn't have a problem all day."
Gleason, who first raced at Trois-Rivieres in Formula Atlantic competition in 1973, finally scored a win at one of his favorite races. After qualifying an impressive sixth, Gleason exited the No. 96 Turner BMW on lap eight and was joined by the other top finishers in the early driver change strategy. The gamble resulted in the Turner duo's second win of the year after scoring at Lime Rock on Memorial Day weekend.
"To win this race means so much to me," Gleason said. "If I could choose any race on the calendar, this would be the one I wanted to win. This is something I will treasure forever. Bill Auberlen, what can I say, no matter what I do, he steps up to the plate and gets it done. It was a great race for the fans. At the end, there were arguably the two best sports car racers in the U.S. battling it out. It was a wonderful event."
Today's race gave Lally and Ted Ballou their fifth podium finish of the season as they followed the same early driver change strategy of the winners. Like Gleason, Ballou stepped out of his race car during the lap eight caution period and Lally took over to the finish.
"The car ran incredibly strong, but the brakes were a big issue," Ballou said. "I tried to save them, and I know Andy tried to save them. It was really slick out there for the first eight laps, but conditions improved. It was my first time here, but Andy gives this team so much confidence. He sets the pace, and we have a lot of momentum. Too bad the season isn't just starting."
The last 10 laps featured one of the year's closest battles with the leaders racing side by side at some points. Lally and Auberlen both showed why they are considered to be two of the best American sports car talents and never made contact despite being only inches away from each other for over 15 minutes.
"It is a little difficult racing someone when the brakes are fading away," Lally said. "For the first two-thirds of the race, we were both backing off a little bit and giving each other room. We were pacing ourselves. Bill and I raced clean, but it was a battle. We didn't touch once, not even by accident. He is steady, fast and consistent. He is a great driver, and I knew it was going to be hard to pass. I would have done the exact same things he did. It was a blast."
Another Grand-Am champion, Craig Stanton joined co-driver Hugh Plumb to finish third in the No. 38 BGB Porsche 997. Like the winners, Stanton took over for Plumb during the first caution and ran as high as second before being passed by Lally in Turn 1 right after the final restart.
"This is a great place to race, the team loves coming up here and the fans are fantastic," Stanton said. "We wanted to make our change really early on, but we came back for fuel and tires later in the race. They were super quick stops. Hugh did a great job, even on the slippery track. We've had a challenge with the brakes, but we managed them. We wanted to run our own pace and avoid contact and that put us on the podium."
Plumb found himself racing in some difficult conditions during his stint, battling not only his competitors but also changing track conditions. A short rain shower at the beginning of the race proved difficult for some, but the third place finisher was able to find a dry race line.
"The race started with rain, making the track pretty slick," Plumb said. "Turn two and the last end of the back straightaway was the worst, and it caught me off guard. It was pretty hairy at the beginning but the BGB team worked their tails off, and Craig did a great job. It is great coming here."
Trois-Rivieres brothers Louis-Philippe Dumoulin and Jean-Francois Dumoulin co-drove to a fourth-place finish in front of their hometown fans in the No. 82 BRG/Group 88 Motorsports Porsche 997. Louis-Philippe led the race for 10 laps just before the halfway point.
Maxwell and co-driver Joe Foster finished fifth in the No. 55 Hyper Sport/Supercuts Mustang which helped Foster close on championship leaders Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal who finished eighth in the No. 09 Fresh from Florida/Automatic Racing BMW M3. After coming into the race trailing by 30 points, Foster -- who also won the pole for Sunday's race -- has now closed to within 27 points, 266 - 239.