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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Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).