Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

Bill Auberlen Upbeat About Turner BMW Performance Shift

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin — Turner Motorsport’s 2019 IMSA season has transformed so much that their average finish from the first four races to the last three races went from 11.75 to two.

Co-drivers Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley went from finishing ninth, 13th, 15th and 10th to second, first and third and climbed in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD standings from 13th to second.

That kind of transformation isn’t really the result of the flip of a magical switch. Misfortune plagued the team earlier in the season, such as getting hit on the first lap of the race at Mid-Ohio and finishing last or having a transmission fail in the final few minutes at Detroit and dropping from fourth place to tenth. However, when the bad luck subsides, the BMW’s pace is clear for all to see ahead of Sunday’s IMSA Road Race Showcase at Road America.

The guys are doing exactly what they’ve always done,” said Auberlen. “Robby’s doing an incredible job, which I’m so happy to have somebody that’s so quick and so good, and then you see the results of all the hard work that people have put in. We have a big hurdle to the front but who’s to say we don’t have great luck and they have a little bit of bad luck and we are battling to the end?”

Turner Motorsport have run the BMW M6 GT3 since 2016 and some tracks match the car’s strengths while others don’t. The car seems to like fast, flowing circuits which means that Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park would be right up the Massachusetts team’s alley. While Auberlen is looking forward to the end of the season because the tracks coming up are great for the M6, Auberlen laments that there are fewer opportunities this year to race.

“I love this racing so much that every race I do is one less I’m not going to be able to do this year and it’s kind of sad, it’s weird,” said Auberlen. “I look forward to it so much. I love it more than I ever have, I’m 50, I’ve been doing this a long time and it’s so enjoyable to be on this Turner team with my teammate, with all the guys, and I love it.”

After the team finished ninth at the Rolex 24 in January, Auberlen said the team tested at Sebring. Since the entire GTD category were on a new tire for 2019 (switching from Continental to Michelin), the team basically decided to go away from their traditional setup notebook and try new things that they otherwise never would have tried. Nearly everything paid off for the team and the car has since been a rocket.

In the first practice at Road America, Auberlen and Foley were sixth in class, just a half second off of the leading No. 33 Riley Motorsports AMG Mercedes GT3. The team has two more practice sessions before Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s two hour and 40 minute race starting at 1:35 p.m. CT. The race will be live on NBC Sports App and on NBC and tape-delayed on NBC Sports at 6:00 p.m. ET.

Auberlen was kind enough to give Motorsports Tribune an inside look at the No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 entry.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.