Redondo Beach, California native Bill Auberlen wasn’t dreaming when he broke his own track record in placing his BMW Team RLL IHG Rewards Club BMW M6 GTLM on the GT Le Mans (GTLM) pole for the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.
Auberlen’s time of 1:17.272 put him on pole for the second consecutive race in 2016 as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship prepares for the first sprint event of the season. Additionally, this is his second straight pole in the No. 25 at Long Beach after starting first in a BMW Z4 GTE last year. He and co-driver Dirk Werner are looking to duplicate their win from a year ago.
“I just heaved one out, as hard as I could,” said Auberlen regarding his pole-winning lap on his fifth trip around the circuit. “You have to sort of contain yourself here because if you stand on it too hard, you can kick the car sideways and sort of screw up your lap. Which I did four times.”
A late run by Earl Bamber in the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR nearly unseated Auberlen atop the time chart, as he came just 0.003 seconds short with a lap of 1:17.275. Bamber and Frederic Makowiecki will round out the front row with teammates Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy starting in third after Pilet’s lap of 1:17.458.
The car that has won both races thus far in the 2016 season, the No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R driven by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, will start fourth. Gavin turned a lap of 1:17.573 to start ahead of the No. 3 Corvette C7.R, which Jan Magnussen qualified at 1:17.676. Antonio Garcia joins Magnussen behind the wheel of the No. 3, which finished atop the podium in this race in 2014.
· Richard Westbrook took quick action to put out a fire in his No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT during the morning practice session. Westbrook requested a fire extinguisher from a corner worker after evacuating the car and minimized the damage in the car’s debut at Long Beach. The issue, caused by a leaking fuel fitting, forced the team to sit out qualifying. However, they expect to have the car ready for the race on Saturday afternoon.
· The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE team of Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander is looking to capture its first podium finish of 2016 – and history shows it could be in the cards in California. Each of the two drivers behind the wheel this weekend have stood on the podium at Long Beach, including Fisichella’s second-place finish last year. Vilander placed third in 2011 and Risi Competizione has tallied five podiums and a win on the street course in 10 starts.
· As Corvette Racing looks to reach the century mark in global wins, they do so with the confidence of five victories in 10 races at Long Beach. The No. 4 car, piloted by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, has been perfect on the season with a sweep of the opening two races of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. In 2014, Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen gave the C7.R its first victory at Long Beach and followed that up with a third place finish in 2015 in the No. 3.
· Earl Bamber, No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR on his first time driving on the Long Beach street course: “The track at Long Beach here is amazing in the RSR. You look at it and it doesn’t look too bumpy, but it’s really, really bumpy out there. And the walls are close. It’s really awesome to around the fountain section. That’s definitely my favorite part of the circuit.”
· Bill Auberlen, No. 25 BMW Team RLL IHG Rewards Club BMW M6 GTLM on the difference between the car he won in at Long Beach in 2015 and his 2016 pole-winning ride: “We’ve never had this BWM M6 GTLM on a short circuit, yet. We were in Daytona, so we got our hands around what it wanted. We went to Sebring, we really started to get the hang of it. I qualified on the pole there, we led the race. We didn’t quite win it, we finished second. Coming to Long Beach, I had my doubts. When you’re here with the Z4 from last year, that car was like performing surgery. It was so precise and nimble through the streets, it was perfect. Now I’m going to bring a car that’s three feet longer than the Z4 and I’m trying to thread through these walls, and I’m thinking this is going to be a challenge.”
· Live television coverage of the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach begins on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on FS2 and the FOX Sports GO app. FS1 will replay the event on Saturday at 11 p.m. ET and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET.