Bill Auberlen, driving the Turner Motorsport M3, held off Jeff Segal’s Ferrari 458 for the GT-class win in a hard-fought Grand-Am Rolex Series race at Mid-Ohio. There was drama in the Daytona Prototype class as well, as Scott Pruett tried to chase down Richard Westbrook's Corvette DP for the win. Westbrook held on, leaving Pruett and his Ganassi Riley-BMW teammate Memo Rojas second in the race—but first in DP drivers’ points.
BMW did not fare as well in the Mid-Ohio Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race, where the marque’s best performance was the fifth-in-class Street Tuner finish of John Capestro-Dubets and James Clay in their BimmerWorld 328i.
The outcome of the Mid-Ohio Rolex Series race could not have been predicted from the qualifying results. Memo Rojas had qualified the Ganassi Riley-BMW sixth behind a pack of Corvette Daytona Prototypes, and Paul Dalla Lana had qualified the Turner Motorsport M3 eighth on the GT grid, over a second slower than the pole-sitting Camaro of Paul Edwards and Robin Liddell.
But there was hope. The Turner car had been granted a weight reduction by Grand-Am, and Riley chassis cars had been granted a break as well; in the face of domination by the Corvette DPs, the Riley prototypes were allowed to run longer front dive planes. And of course there were the drivers; Scott Pruett and Bill Auberlen are both able to wring every ounce of performance available from a race car.
Rojas moved up early in the race; he was running third behind two Corvette DPs, the Spirit of Daytona car of Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante and the SunTrust car of Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli. Pruett stayed in the lead group, fighting for second with Angelelli and the Action Express Corvette DP of Joao Barbosa. Meanwhile, Westbrook had built a strong lead.
In the GT class, Auberlen took over from Dalla Lana just past the thirty minute mark in the race, and proceeded to carve his way through the field. After passing the Mazda RX-8 of Dane Cameron with about an hour left in the race he began to consolidate his class lead. As the race wound down he was being chased by Segal’s Ferrari and Liddell’s Camaro.
A full-course yellow came out just fifteen minutes before the end after Pruett passed Angelelli, Barbosa tried to follow, and Angelelli and Barbosa came together. Angelelli spun, and a yellow flag came out so his disabled car could be towed back to the paddock.
The track went green with just ten minutes left; Pruett was on Westbrook’s tail, and Segal was just behind Auberlen. Both leaders held their positions, finishing with margins of less than a second.
Auberlen said,”... in the Rolex race, the team was perfect. We knew we had a fast car, we'd won here before, we knew the way to victory lane. Our strategist, Don Salama, did a certain pit strategy that we learned from the Continental race. It put us to the front and we were fast. Then the yellow came out with three laps to go. It was a three-lap shootout and my tires had a hard time coming back in. All of a sudden, they came back in on the third lap and I was able to carry the lead."
While Pruett and Rojas did not win the race, their second-place finish returned them to the lead in DP drivers’ points. They are two points ahead of Enzo Potolicchio, Ryan Dalziel, and David Donohue going into the Road America race in two weeks.
While Fall-Line M3 racer Bryan Sellers and RSR Mini racer Sarah Cattaneo led during the Mid-Ohio CTSCC race, the day belonged to other marques.
Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr. won the race and the Grand Sport class in their Roush Performance Boss Mustang 302R, and Chad Gilsinger and Michael Valiante (scoring his first of two wins for the day) won Street Tuner in their Hart Honda Civic Si.
The Fall-Line cars were the best performing M3s; Sellers and Mark Boden finished seventh in Grand Sports while their teammates Hugh Plumb and Al Carter finished eighth.
The BimmerWorld 328i of John Capestro-Dubets and James Clay finished fifth in Street Tuner, their teammates David Levine and Greg Liefooghe finished eighth, and the Burton Racing 128i of Terry Borcheller and Mark LaMarra finished tenth.
After Mid-Ohio, Porsche racers David Empringham and John Farano lead GS points. Hugh Plumb and Al Carter are third and their teammates Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putman are fourth. In ST, where Kia racers Nic Jonnson and Andy Lally lead the standings, Epic Murillo BMW racers Jesse Combs and Jeff Mosing are fourth and BimmerWorld’s Levine and Liefooghe are fifth.—Brian S. Morgan, motorsports editor, bmwcca.orgBack to News