The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW Snaps Lexus’ Three-Year Streak at the Track
By Mark Robinson
LEXINGTON, Ohio – When opportunity knocked, Robby Foley and Bill Auberlen kicked open the door to victory.
The co-drivers of the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 appeared destined for a runner-up finish at best in Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge Presented by the TLX Type S. Lexus looked secure to win the GT Daytona (GTD) class race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the fourth straight year, until a rear suspension issue took Jack Hawksworth’s No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 out of contention.
Foley and Auberlen capitalized on the break and rolled to their first triumph of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. It also marked the 63rd win for Auberlen – the all-time IMSA victory leader – and the fifth career win for Foley. On top of that, it put Auberlen, Foley and the No. 96 BMW atop the unofficial WeatherTech Championship season standings, seven points ahead of the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 shared by Roman De Angelis and Ross Gunn.
“The (No.) 14 had some pace, they were quick,” Auberlen said. “And you can never count your chickens until this race is over. Sure enough, they had a rare mechanical failure and that put us in the lead, and then (Foley) had the pace of everybody else in the field.”
Aaron Telitz, Hawksworth’s teammate and the Motul Pole Award winner in the No. 14 Lexus, took command of the GTD race from the drop of the green flag, building a lead of more than five seconds within the first half hour of the two-hour, 40-minute race. Running second, the Turner team called Foley in for an early pit stop, giving him the chance to run on fresh tires.
“Our strategist thought we could stop early, be the first car on new tires and close the gap a little bit,” Foley explained. “It worked pretty well. I had some traffic on the new tires so we couldn’t close down as much as we wanted to overtake them.”
Foley still ran second to Hawksworth when smoke began pouring from the rear of the No. 14 Lexus with 90 minutes to go on the 2.258-mile road course in Central Ohio. Hawksworth limped the car back to the pits, where it underwent lengthy repairs and eventually retired last in the 13-car GTD field.
From there, Foley sailed in the No. 96 BMW, building a 26-second lead before turning over the car to the veteran Auberlen for the final hour. Zach Veach, in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus, was able to keep Auberlen in sight but never mounted a serious charge. The final margin of victory was 2.712 seconds to give Auberlen his record-extending 63rd career win.
“It’s very little to do with me and everything to do with the cars I drive, the teams I drive with, the co-drivers I drive with,” Auberlen said. “(Foley) gave it to me with a 26-second lead. That was evaporated really quickly when a full-course caution came out (in the final half hour) and we had to race for it. We had the (No. 12) Lexus right on our tail, but our car was so strong on new tires that I was able to gap them and then kind of run their pace.”
It was also Auberlen’s sixth trip to victory lane at Mid-Ohio.
“The car was perfect,” he said. “The reason I have so many wins here is the BMWs are so good on these crazy, twisty, handling tracks. We maybe should have had two more in the last two years but we’ve had some bad luck.”
Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers finished third in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3. The top seven finishers, in fact, each represented a different manufacturer.
Sunday’s race also was the first in the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup, so Foley and Auberlen grabbed the early lead there as well. The next GTD race, the Detroit Grand Prix on Saturday, June 12, counts only toward the Sprint Cup and not for the season championship.