Bill Auberlen has had a long storied career behind the wheel of BMWs. The North East Grand Prix at beautiful Lime Rock Park in the Berkshire hills of Connecticut will be another milestone for the Californian. Bill will be on the grid for his 100th race in ALMS, and to top it off he qualified the #55 M3 GT on the pole. At one of our favorite tracks in the series we are rooting on both BMW cars but can’t help it but to be cheering a bit louder for Bill on this milestone weekend. Full release and video after the jump.
Woodcliff Lake, N.J. – July 6, 2012… Bill Auberlen qualified the No. 55 BMW Team RLL M3 GT on the GT class pole for tomorrow’s American Le Mans Series Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. Auberlen, who will be making his 100th ALMS start tomorrow, set his fast lap of 50.920 seconds around the 1.5-mile, 8-turn circuit on his fifth lap of the 15-minute qualifying session. The 17-year BMW racing ace will co-drive the No. 55 M3 GT with BMW Motorsport veteran Jörg Müller. Müller will be making his first start at BMW of North America’s home track.
Joey Hand qualified the No. 56 BMW M3 GT in the fourth position with a time of 51.334 seconds. Hand, last year’s Lime Rock Park winner with co-driver Dirk Müller, tried a different qualifying strategy by waiting in the pits for the first half of the session. Unfortunately, a red flag brought a seven minute halt to the session with Hand setting his quick lap on lap six, just before the checkered flag waved.
BMW Team RLL M3 GT has brought a streak of three consecutive podium finishes in the first three races of the 2012 season, including a win at the 12 Hours of Sebring, to the Northeast Grand Prix. Since the team’s 2009 season debut, at least one BMW Team RLL M3 has finished on the podium at Lime Rock Park. A third place finish in 2009 led to a double podium 2-3 result in 2010. Last year eventual GT driver co-champions Joey Hand and Dirk Müller won the race after starting from the pole and leading every lap.
Hand and Müller currently stand second in GT driver points following a win (with Jonathan Summerton) at Sebring, a second place finish at Long Beach and a fourth place finish at Laguna Seca in the No. 56 BMW Team RLL M3 GT.
Bill Auberlen and Jörg Müller are coming off a season’s-best finish of third at Laguna Seca in the No. 55 BMW M3 GT. A fourth place finish at Sebring (with Uwe Alzen) and a disappointing 11th at Long Beach has the duo standing fourth in driver points.
Bobby Rahal, Team Principal: “I am pleased for Bill to have scored the pole for his 100th ALMS race, He was clearly the quickest guy out there. Bill and Jörg haven’t had much luck this year. I hope they have nothing but good luck tomorrow starting from the pole. Lots of BMW people will be here tomorrow and having your favorite car on the pole is a great way to start the day. Joey did a good job too. His fourth place time is only a blink of an eye off of the front row.”
Jens Marquardt, BMW Motorsport Director: “We learned a lot in the two practice sessions and transferred that information to Bill. He put the lap together and the time held up to the end of the session. It is unfortunate for Joey that the red flag came out on his hot lap. I think P4 for him is still quite good. All together, the team is in a very good position for the race.”
Joey Hand, Driver No. 56 M3 GT: “We waited so we would have a clearer track because at Lime Rock Park you can have a big mess in traffic. The risk you take was demonstrated today. The red flag got me. Still I am pretty happy with how far we have come with the No. 56 M3 GT. The methodical changes the engineers have been making are moving us in the right direction. I think we would have been P1 or P2 if not for the red flag.”
The 2.45-hour American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix race is the fourth round of the 2012 ALMS championship. The race will take the green flag at 3:05 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 7. ESPN2 will air the race same-day beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET. Live streaming coverage is available starting at 2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN3.com.
The Series’ website offers additional content such as live in-car cameras, and timing and scoring for all users around the world. Viewers outside the U.S. can watch all ALMS races live on ALMS.com.