Bill Auberlen sets IMSA wins record; No. 3 Corvette triumphs again at VIR

Bill Auberlen IMSA record

Bill Auberlen became the all-time winner in IMSA victories Saturday, setting the record in a GTD class victory with teammate Robby Foley during the Michelin GT Challenge at Virginia International Raceway.

Taking the checkered flag in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, Auberlen socred his 61st victory and broke a tie with Scott Pruett.

“It’s amazing,” Auberlen told the IMSA Wire Service. “I said my best career win was Petit Le Mans last year (win No. 60); I think this one has to top it. … It is probably the best win of my career. To do it with Robby, Turner, BMW, everybody, I’m super happy.”

RESULTS: Michelin GT Challenge at VIR overall l By class

Auberlen led the final 53 minutes of the two-hour, 40-minute race, fending off an aggressive move by class runner-up Mario Farnbacher in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 of Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian.

The victory came 27 years after Auberlen’s inaugural win at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

“This was the most nerve-racking hour of my life,” Auberlen said. “When I got to about 35 minutes, every little calculated mistake or whatever I was making, I would talk to myself: ‘Don’t blow this!’ This time it was all in my head, trying not to screw up, get this monkey off my back. Now we can put our head down for the season and try to win this championship.”

Said Foley: “To have a guy like Bill as my teammate to lean on a little bit and just watch how he does things and performs and learn off him is just an amazing opportunity. To be a very small part of his historic career is a humbling experience but also fun to be a part of.”

Robby Foley and Bill Auberlen won the GTD class with the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 (IMSA).

In the GTLM class, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor won in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R for the second consecutive race and third this season, taking advantage of a late pit stop for a cut left rear tire from the lead by Nick Tandy in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR-19.

Garcia limped to the finish line with a broken rear diffuser that left his car shaking over the closing laps.

“Things are definitely going our way,” said Garcia, who won by 3.5 seconds over the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE of Bruno Spengler and Connor De Phillippi. “We can’t complain about that. To do this, you need a fast car and a team to perform the whole time. We have that. We had our issues like the other teams did, but the main thing is that the ones we had were early so we could recover right away.”

Garcia said the rear diffuser broke at the same time Tandy pitted with 18 minutes left, but the Corvette driver was able to baby the car to the finish.

“Jordan did a really good job in his middle stint to drive back and maintain the gap behind the leaders,” Garcia said. “When I jumped in, the race was pretty much done. All I could do was keep some pressure on the 911 and not let him get away and have an easy race to the end. But we had our issues at the same time.

Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor celebrate their GTLM victory at VIR (IMSA).

“At first I thought it was terminal because it felt really bad. Once I got used to it, I could tell it wasn’t really interfering with the performance. I had enough of a gap to the 25 by about 12 or 13 seconds. I could manage that in a way. It was very stressful. Thankfully the C8.R is very strong all around. We just need to keep this momentum.”

Taylor and Garcia lead the championship standings in GTLM 165-146 over defending champions Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor, who finished fifth Saturday.

The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will return Sept. 4-6 at Road Atlanta.


Michelin GT Challenge leader sequence

Michelin GT Challenge race analysis by lap

Michelin GT Challenge fastest lap sequence

Michelin GT Challenge fastest lap by driver

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.