Bill Auberlen: Talking About Breaking a Big, Big IMSA Record

Steven Cole
By Steven Cole Smith
Oct 5, 2020 | BMW, IMSA, Bill Auberlen

Photography courtesy BMW

When you’re hot, you’re hot. And Bill Auberlen was hot as a Mexican buffet. On Saturday, August 22, Auberlen won his 61st IMSA race, making him the winningest driver in IMSA history by breaking the tie he had with Scott Pruett at 60 wins each.

And on Sunday, to put an exclamation point on the accomplishment, he and co-driver Robby Foley won the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race, sweeping the weekend.

The wins came at Virginia International Raceway at the Michelin GT Challenge, an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race. It was only a matter of time before Auberlen broke the tie with Pruett, now 60, who quit racing after the 2018 Rolex 24 but refuses to say he has retired. He still does high-performance driving and testing with Lexus.

Auberlen, though, has no plans to retire any time soon. He still has two years left on his contract with BMW and the Turner Motorsports team, which fields the familiar blue, white and yellow BMWs in both series.

I was so happy to get that monkey off my back,” Auberlen tells Grassroots Motorsports. “And it felt like half the people in the world called or emailed or texted after the race. It was great. I didn’t know I even knew that many people.” It might have been more fun had there been fans to cheer him, but none were allowed in the stands due to the coronavirus pandemic. But, Auberlen says, “I’ll take it anyway!”

Auberlen is from Redondo Beach, California. His father, Gary, was a racer who got his son into the sport at a relatively young age. On Bill's first four trips to the Rolex 24 At Daytona—out of 31 now, believe it or not—he co-drove a Porsche 911 with his dad. That was 1987 to ’90, with a best class finish of second in 1988.

Although primarily known as a GT racer, Auberlen has racked up a lot of laps in prototype cars, including the 2008 Rolex 24 in Alex Job Racing’s Crawford-Porsche co-driving with three other modern-day legends: Patrick Long, Joey Hand and Andy Wallace.

Auberlen, a six-time champion, is known for keeping his car under him and finishing races—with one major exception. At Road Atlanta where during the 2000 Petit Le Mans, his BMW V12 LMR flipped as he crested a rise on the back straight. He walked away. Quickly.

That 61st win came in his regular ride, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona car. He shares the Turner BMW M6 GT3 with Robby Foley, a young driver who joined the team in 2019 and immediately earned Auberlen’s respect. “Robby is just the kind of guy you want as a co-driver,” Auberlen explains, “fast, reliable, a gentleman, a really worthy person of helping get into the sport.”

While Auberlen has raced makes as varied as Panoz, Mazda, Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin, he figures “90 or 95%” of his wins have been in BMWs, a company with which he's had a tight relationship that dates back more than two decades. The factory has also given him a chance to share a BMW ride with drivers like Hans Stuck, Boris Said and Derek Hill.

I love winning,” says Auberlen, 51. “I love being able to show that old guys can still go fast. And I plan of training harder than ever, because I want to see how old I can be and still win races.” And he’s already seen pictures of the all-new 2022 BMW M4 GT3. “There’s no way I’m quitting before I get behind the wheel of that car.”

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