Bill Auberlen broke the record for most wins in IMSA when he and Robby Foley in the #96 Turner Motorsport M6 GT3 won the GTD class in the two-hour-forty-minute IMSA WeatherTech Series race at Virginia International Raceway on August 22. The duo would come back to win a second race for Turner in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race on Sunday.
BMW Team RLL also did well at VIR, as Connor De Phillippi and Bruno Spengler in the #25 M8 GTE finished second overall and second in the GTLM class. The overall and GTLM wins in the race, run for IMSA’s two GT classes only, went to Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor in the #3 Corvette.
Auberlen’s 61st win in IMSA competition broke a tie with Scott Pruett for the most wins in the series. Auberlen had tied Pruett when he, Foley, and Dillon Machavern in the #96 Turner M6 GT3 won the GTD class in the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta in October 2019. Foley took the lead early in the VIR race, always ran at or near the front of the pack, and handed off to Auberlen from the lead with an hour remaining in the race. Auberlen led his entire stint, fending off a challenge from Mario Farnbacher in an Acura NSX and crossing the finish line with a seven-second lead in the GTD class.
He said afterward, “I am humbled to own this record and dedicate it to my mom and dad. My thanks to BMW for having the faith in me to sign me back in 1996. I have been lucky to have many great co-drivers and Robby (Foley) was the man today, driving two great stints and making it look easy. To everyone at Turner Motorsport, my second home, I’m delighted to have shared this with you all. Now, let’s go see about win number 62.”
In the GTLM class De Phillippi and Spengler ran in the lead group almost all the way; near the end, they were in third behind the leading Porsche driven by Nick Tandy. A tire failure brought the Porsche in for a late stop with just eighteen minutes remaining, and promoted Garcia in the Vette to first and Spengler to second. The Corvette hung on for the win despite vibrations from a loose floor, and Spengler fended off a resurgent Tandy to score second for car #25. The #24 M8 GTE driven by Jesse Krohn and John Edwards spent a number of laps in the pits because of a steering problem. It finished sixth in class.
On the Sunday following the WeatherTech series race, the Michelin Pilot Challenge ran for two hours at VIR. Usually, MPC runs on the day before the WeatherTech race, but the schedule was reversed to allow a number of WeatherTech competitors, among them Team RLL’s Bobby Rahal, to get to Indianapolis for the Sunday running of the Indy 500. Rahal’s trip to Indy was a productive one; Takuma Sato won the race for Team RLL and Rahal’s son Graham finished third, also running for Team RLL.
The #82 BimmerWorld M4 GT4 was withdrawn from the Sunday MPC race after Devin Jones had a big crash in Saturday practice. He went off the end of turn one, ran across wet grass at high speed, plowed through two tire barriers, over a catch fence, and into the woods. He was taken to the hospital, where he had surgery for fractures to his back and right arm.
In Sunday’s race, Robby Foley in the #95 Turner Motorsport M4 GT4 took the lead as the pole sitter went off course briefly early in the first lap. From that point on, Turner owned the race, with Auberlen taking the handoff from Foley to lead his entire stint and finish first ahead of Dylan Murray in the Mercedes AMG GT4 that he shared with Jim Cox. When Foley got out of #95, he went directly to the Turner team’s car #96, taking over from Vin Barletta. He moved up to finish third at the end, occupying two podium positions. Nick Galante and Dillon Machevern finished eleventh in the #80 BimmerWorld M4 GT4.
IMSA runs next at Road Atlanta on September 4–6, where the WeatherTech series will run a six-hour race and the Michelin Pilot Series will run for four hours.—Brian Morgan
[Photos of Bill Auberlen and Team RLL #25 courtesy BMW Motorsport. Photo of the Turner M4 GT4s courtesy Turner Motorsport.]