VIRginia International Raceway has been very, very good to Bill Auberlen.
On Saturday, he set the record for career victories in premier series history with his 61st. On Sunday, he followed it with a victory in the Michelin Pilot Challenge – his 17th in that series.
Afterward, he gave the credit to his co-driver, Robby Foley, who drove the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 to the front before handing it over to Auberlen.
“If somebody hands you the car in the lead, all you can do is make it worse,” Auberlen said. “My job is to not take what he did perfectly and mess it up.”
The victory in the Virginia is for Racing Lovers Grand Prix came a day after Auberlen and Foley won the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class in the Michelin GT Challenge. The Michelin Pilot Challenge victory didn’t count toward his record-setting total, but it was an appropriate exclamation point.
Auberlen compared the weekend to last year’s Motul Petit Le Mans, which he won to tie Scott Pruett for 60 career victories. The difference this time was the lack of fans at VIR because of COVID-19. However, Auberlen heard the fans in another way.
“When I got back to the hotel room, I got so many fans and so many people who watched it on the internet and on TV sent me congratulations,” Auberlen said. “It was watched by a lot of people, and I’m so grateful for all the people who supported me all these years.”
Auberlen wasn’t the only one with an impressive weekend. Foley received two trophies Sunday -- one for the victory and another one for finishing third in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW. After handing the No. 95 car to Auberlen, Foley replaced Vincent Barletta in the No. 96.
Foley said Sunday’s win was similar to Saturday's, and it was, right down to the fact that he led the first lap in both.
“We had a strong car for the race,” he said. “I just put my head down. It was similar to yesterday -- just manage the gap and don’t beat the car up too much.”
Michael Lewis and Mason Filippi teamed in the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR to win the TCR class. The victory completed a podium sweep by Hyundai and was the third consecutive win by Herta’s team.
“One of the strongest things about this car is definitely the cornering,” Filippi said. “You're able to really charge the corners well and get a good exit, which is something that they’ve worked on. The team gives us the best car we can have.”
Following Auberlen and Foley in the Grand Sport (GS) class was the No. 35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 shared by Jim Cox and Dylan Murry. Following Lewis and Filippi in the TCR class was the No. 21 BHA entry co-driven by Harry Gottsacker and Mark Wilkins.
The season resumes Sept. 4-6 with a four-hour race as part of the Michelin Endurance Challenge Weekend at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.