Bill Auberlen IMSA record
IMSA

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

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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.


MORE STATS FROM VIR

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

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.