SportsCarInsider interviewed Bill Auberlen of BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team, and “one of the fastest drivers in sports car racing for fifteen years and has raced just about every type of car, from street stock BMWs in World Challenge and Continental Challenge to Grand Am Daytona Prototypes and cutting edge GT cars.”
Auberlen, 40,of Redondo Beach, CA, joined BMW RHL in 2009 Auberlen, and first drove for BMW of North America in 1996 when he joined the previous M3 racing program, then in its second year of competition. Auberlen would go on to become the team’s most successful driver, winning driver titles in both 1997 and 2004.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Haueter: Is ALMS GT this year the most competitive racing you’ve ever experienced?
Auberlen: Yes, absolutely. The ALMS has always had manufacturers involved, but the lap times have never been down to the second and third digit past the decimal. That makes it very competitive, and you see the driver lineups and they’re all ex-champions. The series has gotten the cars to be very close and the tire manufacturers each have their own strong suits, but ultimately on the lap times we’re all very close together.
Haueter: Does it take more effort outside of the cockpit to compete at this level?
Auberlen: BMW Rahal Letterman Racing is different than other teams I’ve raced for. After every race, we get an Excel spreadsheet that’s usually around ten pages of data showing how you compare to every other car out there –how fast you were compared to every car in the field for the first ten laps, how fast you were out of the pits, how fast you were for a twenty lap run, where you were quickest in the turns… . you need to take it all in and figure out where you need to improve.
Haueter: How does the M3 you’re racing this year compare to other M3’s you’ve driven in the past?
Auberlen: This M3 is cutting edge. It’s almost like they made a work of art and then decided to turn it into a race car. Nothing is compromised with the car. It makes more downforce than I’ve ever felt before in a GT car, and that was with the older bodywork. The motor is beautiful and runs like a champion. We’ve run it hard every single race and it’s been very reliable. You just want so badly to do a good job and do what the car is capable of.
Haueter: The ALMS M3 and the tube-framed M6 you drive in Grand Am Rolex GT are both front-engine race cars with BMW V8 motors, but are they similar at all to drive?
Auberlen: No, not even close. The Rolex GT M6 is one of the highest performing cars in the field, but it’s also one of the heaviest, so it has a very heavy feel to it. Once you get that car pointed straight and step on it though, that BMW M5 V8 motor gets going and the car just takes off like a rocket. The thing about that car is you can be in a gear too high and the car will still pull strong, it has so much torque. It would pull a tree right out of the ground. The ALMS M3 is perfection – everything is right on target. It has the perfect balance of power, braking and handling. Everything just feels in perfect proportion.