Gleason and Auberlen's Race Ends at Halfway Point at Laguna; Their BMW Ran as High as Second MONTEREY, Calif., May 20 - The Turner Motorsport BMW M3 No. 96 of Chris Gleason and Bill Auberlen got as high as second in Sunday's KONI Challenge GS ...
Gleason and Auberlen's Race Ends at Halfway Point at Laguna; Their BMW Ran as High as Second
MONTEREY, Calif., May 20 - The Turner Motorsport BMW M3 No. 96 of Chris Gleason and Bill Auberlen got as high as second in Sunday's KONI Challenge GS race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca here. Unfortunately seconds later the car experienced mechanical difficulties and retired at the halfway point with 42 laps complete in the 83-lap, 400k race.
The stats don't accurately convey the effort expended. Officially the entry both started and finished 36th in the 41-car field.
It was definitely fast here though, as Auberlen proved the first thing Sunday morning when he topped the field with a 1:35.9623 in the warm-up session, which was only a glimpse of the run to come.
Gleason, of Johnstown, Pa., qualified 23rd on Saturday morning but the entry was one of three that had to start Sunday's race from pit lane.
Putting that behind him, Gleason took the green and got to work on the challenging, 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course. He methodically passed at least one car almost every lap, and by lap 10 he was in 29th. He ran his fastest lap on lap 14 when he was clocked in 1:38.902 for an average speed of 81.462 miles per hour while in 26th spot, busy putting Bob Heniff's Porsche 997 behind him and then zeroing in on Mark Ackley's Mustang GT.
At that point another Mustang GT driven by Ray Mason sailed into a gravel trap off Turn 10 to bring out the first full-course yellow. The team's game plan is for Gleason to pit under the first full-course yellow within a certain window, and since that window had been reached he brought the beautiful BMW into the pits with 15 laps down so Auberlen could take over. Gleason was in 23rd when he pitted with 2:02.02 remaining, advancing 13 spots in 28 minutes.
Auberlen, aka "The Rocket Man," was ready to go and make the fans from his hometown of Redondo Beach, Calif., proud. The entry fell to 31st place after the pit stop, but by lap 20 Auberlen was in 24th. Four laps later he had cracked the top 15 with 1:47.08 remaining.
Seven minutes later he was into the top 10 for the first time Sunday, running between Tim George Jr.'s BMW M3 and Andy Lally's Porsche 997. He'd set his fastest lap of the race a few minutes earlier when he was clocked in 1:36.457, or 83.527 mph, on lap 26.
Auberlen vaulted into eighth place on lap 28, had seventh by lap 33, and moved into sixth on lap 34 with an hour and a half remaining. He took fifth on lap 37, but things were looking great because the four drivers ahead of him hadn't made their mandatory pit stop yet.
Lally already had pitted, and he was right behind him. Lally passed him on lap 38 to push him back to sixth with 1:23.00 left, but Auberlen regained fifth on lap 40 when the second-place Nissan 350Z of Tommy Constantine pitted. Seconds later Constantine was joined on pit road by the leader to that point, Don Salama in the other Turner BMW, as well as the second-place car of Jean-Francois Dumoulin and the third-place car of Joe Foster, giving Auberlen second for a few seconds until Bret Seafuse passed him with his Mustang to send him back to third.
Kris Wilson then passed Auberlen to push him to fourth behind Lally, Seafuse and Wilson on lap 42 with 1:17.25 remaining. That's when the trouble struck and the entry went behind the wall, reportedly with driveline problems.
-credit: restart communications