Photo courtesy of IMSA

Bill Auberlen to make 400th BMW start at Petit Le Mans

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This weekend’s running of the Petit Le Mans will see BMW Team RLL driver Bill Auberlen reach a milestone with the German automaker: his 400th start with the manufacturer.

Auberlen, who will hit 550 total starts in his professional racing career on Saturday, joined BMW’s racing efforts in 1996, first joining what was then called BMW Team PTG, beginning a partnership than has spanned over two decades and has seen Auberlen be a part of ever BMW of North America racing program since then.

Though he is primarily known as a GT driver, Auberlen’s tenure does include some work in prototypes, such as in 1999, when he was a part of the driving lineup in a BMW V12 LMR in the then American Le Mans Series.

BIll Auberlen, second from the left, piloted a BMW prototype in 1999. Photo: BMW Team RLL

Racing with BMW Team RLL since 2009, when RLL picked up the BMW contract, Auberlen has won in every marque BMW has contested: the M3, the Z4, and the M6. The new M8 GTE debuts next season.

However, despite the milestone, Auberlen’s focus is on winning Saturday’s race. “The amount of work done by everyone that has contributed to this effort over the last two years of the BMW M6 program has been extraordinary. Although we can’t win the championship, we can certainly win this race. 400 races for BMW? It has been great, but I don’t often look back. Bring on the next one!” Auberlen quipped.

Perhaps Auberlen’s most notable results with BMW are class victories at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 1997 and 1998. This year, Auberlen and co-drover Alexander Sims have won twice, at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.

Bill Auberlen and co-driver Alex Sims have won twice in 2017 in their BMW M6 GTLM. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Currently, Auberlen and Sims sit third in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM standings, one point behind the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook. Corvette Racing’s pair of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen lead the title and will clinch provided they make the minimum drive time to score points on Saturday.

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F1 2017 driver review: Kevin Magnussen

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Kevin Magnussen

Team: Haas
Car No.: 20
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P7 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 19
Championship Position: 14th

Kevin Magnussen’s move to Haas proved to be a win-win situation for both parties through 2017 as they banished the struggles of the previous Formula 1 season.

For Magnussen, the move came after a difficult one-season stint with Renault who despite offering him a way back into F1 after a year on the sidelines were unable to produce a car allowing the Dane to fight far up the order.

Haas had not expected to be able to be that much further ahead, but Magnussen nevertheless immediately offered an uplift in performance after replacing Esteban Gutierrez, who failed to score a single point through 2016.

Magnussen picked up Haas’ first points of the season with a solid drive in China, and was able to capitalize on the bonkers Baku race to take P7, which would ultimately be his best result of the season.

Consistency was a real issue for Haas throughout the year as it continued to have teething problems most new teams encounter, and while Magnussen was more able to drive around the problems than teammate Romain Grosjean, he lacked the ultimate pace of his teammate.

That said, Magnussen’s season highlight came in Mexico, a track Haas expected to be its worst of the season. The ex-McLaren driver qualified on the last row but produced a stunning display to finish eighth, soaking up pressure from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton late on.

The signs are positive moving forward. Next year should be Haas’ best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations, presenting a good opportunity for Magnussen to prove his star quality.

Season High: Taking P8 in Mexico when Haas expected to be slowest.

Season Low: Lagging home P15 at Spa as Grosjean hit the points.