If you ask Bill Auberlen for his thoughts about Long Beach, expect a long and detailed answer.
Auberlen lives in Redondo Beach, and he enjoys racing less than 20 miles from home.
“It’s in the most beautiful scenic place we go to, right in the harbor and marina, Shoreline Drive right along all the restaurants,” Auberlen said. “It is as picturesque as any of the events that we go to. Once you master the track, the event is one of the best we have in our series.”
Auberlen has enjoyed success at Long Beach, winning there two years ago with BMW Team RLL and co-driver Maxime Martin. Last year, he was running third when co-driver Andy Priaulx had his mirror knocked off on his way to pit road, and they finished sixth – although BMW Team RLL teammates John Edwards and Dirk Mueller finished second in GT Le Mans (GTLM).
“We have a very good setup there, and our cars are always very fast there,” Auberlen said.
Auberlen will co-drive with Dirk Werner in the white No. 25 IHG Rewards Club BMW Z4 GTLM, carrying a scheme debuted at Sebring to celebrate BMW Motorsports’ 40th anniversary of its first victory. Edwards and Lucas Luhr drive with a similar scheme on the team’s No. 24 entry.
BMW Team RLL is also looking for its first TUDOR Championship victory. The team last visited victory lane at Lime Rock Park in 2013, when Edwards and Mueller won two races after Auberlen’s triumph at Long Beach. The team has been knocking on the door since then, but waiting for a breakthrough victory.
Auberlen is also looking to add to his personal victory total. With 53 triumphs spread out among four different series, he trails only Scott Pruett’s 59 on the all-time North American endurance racing victory list.
Auberlen found Long Beach intimidating at first, but it quickly rewards the patiently aggressive driver.
For instance, he points out the section early in the track going around a picturesque fountain.
“It’s an amazing section – it’s so tight and so crazy,” he said. “If you’re new to Long Beach, you wonder how you are supposed to navigate around a fountain, by a wall and over a bump. But after 30 minutes of practice, you feel this is a beautiful track – the most scenic place we go to.”
Auberlen recalls watching then-teammate Joey Hand negotiate Turn 8.
“I watched him going through there almost grazing the wall five laps in a row,” he recalled. “To run this track fast, you have to be right on the limit, right on the verge of touching every single wall.”
Overall, there’s no particular place you have to master at Long Beach.
“All of the turns are key,” he said. “You’ve got to have a car that’s masterful around the walls and over the bumps, putting traction down everywhere. Since the pavement is all very similar, if it’s good in one turn, it’s generally pretty good everywhere.”