Auberlen, Gleason Score Second Straight KONI Challenge Grand Sport Race Victory at Lime Rock Park LAKEVILLE, Conn. (May 28, 2007) -- No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 driver Bill Auberlen survived a late challenge from Spencer Pumpelly in the No....
Auberlen, Gleason Score Second Straight KONI Challenge Grand Sport Race Victory at Lime Rock Park
LAKEVILLE, Conn. (May 28, 2007) -- No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 driver Bill Auberlen survived a late challenge from Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 49 Marcus Motorsports Porsche 997 to win Monday's Grand-Am KONI Challenge Grand Sport (GS) race at Lime Rock Park, giving Auberlen and co-driver Chris Gleason their second consecutive GS victory at the 1.53-mile, seven-turn track.
Auberlen--who moved into a four-way tie for eighth in overall KONI Challenge Series career victories--took advantage of a slight mishap by Pumpelly on Lap 86 and took the lead when Pumpelly slid wide and off the racing surface coming onto the front straightaway. While Pumpelly trimmed the lead down to .222 seconds--or less than two car lengths--near the end, Auberlen masterfully worked his way through traffic during the waning laps to win by 3.760 seconds in the two-and-a-half hour, 138-lap race. The victory was the first for Turner Motorsport in 2007.
"This has been a great place to me," said Auberlen, who led the final 53 laps of the race. "My biggest winning streak, for some reason, comes in Lime Rock. I've won 10 or 12 races here, I've had very good success, and I love it. Every time, it's great. This was one of the hardest fought ones because (Pumpelly) had a very strong car. I had a lot of friends in the field that helped me out. The Turner guys and all of our supporters, Motul Oil, I've got to thank them for making it happen."
Gleason started the car 14th and completed the team's first 45 laps, bringing the car in on Lap 46 for the team's only pit stop and handing the car over to his teammate.
"It's a privilege to drive with a guy like Billy Auberlen," Gleason said. "I mean, besides being a great guy, he's obviously a terrific driver. He knows how to win races, and that's why he's special. I consider it a very special experience to be racing with a guy like him."
After Auberlen took over, he made his way through the field, picking up several positions on the track. After the first set of stops cycled through, he entered the top five and began battling toward the front. He was never lower than fourth after Lap 70, and moved into second behind Pumpelly--who set the race's fast lap at the halfway point--soon after several drivers pitted a second time. Pumpelly, who shared the No. 49 machine with Peter Ludwig, led by as many as three and a half seconds before the off-course excursion allowed Auberlen to fly by for the winning pass.
Pumpelly, who won of Round 4 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with Ludwig, made up the gap through traffic, and nearly pulled alongside Auberlen coming off Turn 7 on Lap 136, but Pumpelly couldn't get by lapped cars in the final two laps, which allowed Auberlen to pull away.
"We were a little bit better, but I'm talking such a small amount that I couldn't have really gotten by him unless he made a mistake, and that's really rare out of Bill," said Pumpelly, one of seven leaders on the day. "He was driving very well. We'd catch traffic and he'd get unlucky, and I'd think I have him, and then I'd get unlucky and he'd go again. Ultimately, we just didn't have the break fall our way and the Turner guys did a great job. It's a solid run for the team and we were close."
In only his second KONI Challenge Series start, Ludwig posted his second podium finish, this coming at the home track for the New Paltz, N.Y. resident.
"The first one was a dream come true, and this one was a little bittersweet," Ludwig said. "I was hoping for a first place again. It's like, once you've been there, it's hard. This is my home track and I had a lot of friends here and a lot of support. My goal was to bring the car to Spencer in the top five when he got in for his stint, and I came in P2. That was just great as well. Hats off to the guys that won, and maybe next time."
Finishing third were No. 41 TRG Carlson Porsche/DigiTrust Group Porsche 997 co-drivers Andy Lally and Ted Ballou, who started 35th in the 36-car field. Ballou started the race, and Lally took over during the early stages, making up a significant number of positions due the car's starting position and after Ballou was penalized for making unnecessary contact with another car during the first 20 minutes. Lally took the car to third on Lap 75--during the second round of pit stops--and was never challenged for the spot, finishing more than 20 seconds ahead of fourth-place.
"It was probably one of the more memorable and most exciting Grand-Am Cup/KONI Challenge events that I've actually witnessed," said Lally. "Almost all of these end with some crazy bang-up, smash-up results at some point in the race, but they all seemed to happen, like, two cars in front of me. I saw some awesome, wild stunts today. You couldn't have planned it any crazier than that. I had fun. The race was great, and Ted did super. We could have left him in for the whole race. He was running awesome times, most of the time running first, second or third in that lap. We just came up through the field. It was good, I was real happy, and TRG did a super job."
"We had a long way to go," Ballou added. "Starting last was difficult, but we stayed patient and just tried to move at a fast pace through the field. We had a bit of a bum call in Turn 1 and had to pit, which was a bummer. That set us back to about 25th again and we worked our way up to about 15th. I handed the car off to Lally, who's just an incredible sports car driver, one of the best in the world. The team did a great job of getting him in and out of the pits. The other cars were running well at the front, and we just got a couple of good breaks. Andy did a great job and brought it home third."
Lally and Ballou were followed by TRG teammates Duncan Ende and Grant Maiman, who co-drove the No. 39 TRG Carlsen Porsche/Mitchell Global Porsche 997 to fourth. Ende, the fastest driver in Monday's morning practice, kept the car near the front during his stint, and led eight laps before turning the car over to Maiman, who reentered the race in the top 10. Maiman steadily moved through the pack to fourth.
No. 20 Horsepower Ranch Porsche 997 co-drivers Hugh Plumb and Ross Thompson rounded out the top five, the last duo to finish the race on the lead lap. Thompson started the race, and Plumb worked the car up to fifth late to give Porsche four of the top five positions.
Three caution periods slowed the race's pace, with only one coming as a result of an incident. Tim George Jr. spun the No. 91 Gleukos Sports Drink/Fresh From Florida BMW M3 into the tire barrier on Lap 43, but was not seriously injured.
Polesitter Will Turner, in the sister No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3, led the first five laps, but was penalized for jumping the start and fell to 21st after his stop-and-go. Co-driver Don Salama brought the car home in 11th.
Joe Foster, who co-drove the No. 55 Hyper Sport Supercuts Mustang GT with Scott Maxwell, retained the GS points lead after the car's eighth-place finish, giving him a 13-point lead over No. 5 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Ford Mustang GT owner/driver Tom Nastasi and No. 90 Fresh From Florida/Automatic Racing BMW M3 co-drivers Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton. Nastasi co-drove to a 13th-place result with Terry Borcheller, while Segal and Thornton finished sixth to move into the second-place tie. The KONI Challenge Series GS and Street Tuner (ST) classes resume action June 16-17 at Mosport International Raceway at Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.