Bill Auberlen gained 23 positions en route to victory in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 9. The Redondo Beach, Calif., driver combined with Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto to top the 17-car GT field, driving the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW M3.
Dalla Lana started eighth in class and moved up to sixth before handing off to Auberlen after 30 minutes of the two-hour 45-minute race. Auberlen returned to the track 14th, but patiently worked his way through the pack to take the class lead at 1h36. He relinquished the lead when he stopped for fuel, then charged from 10th back to first just past the two-hour mark. He increased his lead to more than eight seconds before a late caution period collected the field and reduced his margin of victory to less than one second.
Auberlen and Dalla Lana had hoped for a double win, in both the Rolex Series race and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race that preceded it. An oil pump failure left them on the sidelines in the Continental race, but they took valuable lessons from that race to victory in the Rolex Series.
"It was a bittersweet day because we started with the Continental race. We had such a good car – it was fastest in most of the practice sessions. But when I got in the car, the oil pump broke three laps into my stint," Auberlen said.
"Then in the Rolex race, the team was perfect. We knew we had a fast car, we'd won here before, we knew the way to victory lane. Our strategist, Don Salama, did a certain pit strategy that we learned from the Continental race. It put us to the front and we were fast. Then the yellow came out with three laps to go. It was a three-lap shootout and my tires had a hard time coming back in. All of a sudden, they came back in on the third lap and I was able to carry the lead."
Auberlen noted the BMW was set up well for the crucial Keyhole, the fourth turn on the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio track.
"We had a very strong car getting off the Keyhole, which is the key at Mid-Ohio," he said. "You need to get off that turn and draft all the way down the straight. We had such a good braking car that people tried to block me on the inside and I actually passed almost everybody on the outside! We had a car that could go almost anywhere."
Celebrating with his new sponsor, Cvstos, Auberlen noted: "In racing, you need to have perfection. The BMW is as close to perfection as anything you can drive and Cvstos is as close to perfection as any timepiece you can wear on your wrist."