Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana in their Grand Sport class Turner Motorsport M3 won the first-ever Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series race on the new 3.4-mile, 20-turn Circuit of the Americas in Texas. It was the first win for the duo since Homestead in 2011.
Dalla Lana moved up from his eighth place starting position to fifth overall early in the race; he was running sixth when he handed off to Auberlen at about the forty minute mark, during the first of three full-course yellow flag periods in the 2 ½-hour race.
The Turner M3 and the three Fall-Line M3s were running strong; an hour into the race Fall-Line’s Bryan Sellers and Brett Sandberg were running second and third, with Auberlen fourth and Hugh Plumb’s Fall-Line car near the front as well.The M3s had been granted a larger intake restrictor by Grand-Am after Daytona.
Auberlen took the lead for the first time about 1 ¼ hours into the race, and continued to lead until he pitted under green with about 55 minutes remaining. He regained the lead with 24 minutes left and stayed in front for the win despite the efforts of a hard-charging Spencer Pumpelly in his Porsche. Pumpelly, who ran within a half-second of Auberlen late in the race, got by on the penultimate lap, but Auberlen retook the lead after two turns and held on for the win, using traffic to give himself an edge over the Porsche on the last lap. Fall-Line’s Charles Espenlaub and Brett Sandberg finished third, while Fall-Line team owner Mark Boden and his co-driver Bryan Sellers finished sixth.
Auberlen said, “We tested here, and that definitely paid off in spades. This place is pretty hard to get your arms around, and we came up with an unusual setup. It’s like a road course setup on one side, and an oval track setup on the other. We definitely had an advantage. It was great racing with Spencer (Pumpelly); we were back and forth for the lead at one point. But then Spencer got caught up in traffic, and that allowed me to pull away.”
Terry Borcheller and Mike LaMarra finished third in the Street Tuner class in their Burton Racing 128i. Borcheller led late in the race, but was overtaken on the last lap by Stevan McAleer in his Mazda MX-5. Tom Long finished second in another MX-5. Two BimmerWorld 328s finished in the top ten; Connor Bloum and Gref Strelzoff were eighth while Seth Thomas and Dan Rogers were tenth.
Speed TV will air the COTA race on March 9 at 4:00 PM eastern time. The series runs again at Barber Motorsports Park on April 6.—Brian S. MorganBack to News