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.”
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.
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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.”
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.
“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.
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