As usual, Auberlen’s co-driver Robby Foley shone in the cold but dry track surface for qualifying to start second to Aaron Telitz’s Lexus RC F, but on Lap 3 of the delayed and wet 100-minute race, he spun down to eighth in GT Daytona class while trying to avoid the wayward GT Le Mans-class BMW M8 of Bruno Spengler.
As soon as the minimum drive times were completed, the GTD teams pitted their cars and Auberlen took over from Foley. The Turner Motorsport team did a great job to send the blue and yellow BMW M6 out in fourth, and Auberlen swiftly passed Townsend Bell’s Lexus for third.
Thereafter he sliced into the advantage of the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 of Pat Long, and passed him around the 40min mark.
Although Mario Farnbacher in the leading Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX had pulled out a 7.5sec advantage over this period, Auberlen’s M6 was setting times similar to the M8s in GTLM and a quarter-hour later had wrested the lead away.
Thereafter, he built up a 20sec lead but this was erased by the late yellow for Tommy Milner’s crash in the Corvette.
For the restart with 5mins remaining, Auberlen’s closest competitor would be Long, who had passed Farnbacher when the NSX had a couple of off-track excursions at the chicane.
“It was pretty much a flawless race until the very end, a yellow comes out,” Auberlen said. “I just couldn’t believe it. It’s like your heart falls.
“We knew we had a good car, and I knew the guy behind me was Pat Long. I’ve raced against him for many years, and he is not afraid to put a tire on your car to get to the front. I’ve had him do it many times. I was hoping he was going to be fairly nice.”
The Porsche driver, perhaps aware of how he is in the running for the GTD championship, didn’t make a robust challenge on the restart and Auberlen came home 1.5sec in front for a thoroughly deserved 62nd IMSA win.
The race was restarted with six minutes to go. Long made one attempt in Turn 1 just after the green flag flew, but Auberlen kept him at bay and crossed the finish line 1.497 seconds ahead. It was the second WeatherTech Championship win of the season for Auberlen and Foley – the duo also won August’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIR – and was Auberlen’s 62nd IMSA win, adding to his all-time record total.
“That BMW was running like a missile the whole race,” Auberlen said. “It loves that drying condition so as it’s drying a little bit, it just puts the power down so well and makes the grip. And it does everything really right.”
Long and co-driver Ryan Hardwick finished second and the pair are now tied for second in the GTD championship with Telitz.
These three lie four points behind Farnbacher and his co-driver Matt McMurry, who were set for third until, coming to the green flag for the final restart, Telitz’s Lexus co-driver Jack Hawksworth knocked the Acura into a spin. That left Farnbacher seventh, one place ahead of Hawksworth who had to serve a drive-through penalty.