Bill Auberlen is one of the most experienced active American racing drivers. His career started 30 years ago with his debut participation at 24 hours of Daytona. Since then, he competed 27 times at the greatest American endurance race, scoring two class victories and three more class podiums.
Although he was driving all types of race cars, Auberlen was most successful with GT cars and touring cars, becoming the IMSA GT-3 champion, Grand American Rolex Series GT champion and World Challenge winner. For most of his career, Auberlen was driving BMW cars, becoming a true ambassador of the famous German brand. In the last round of the 2017 IMSA SportsCar Championship, the Petit Le Mans, he recorded his 400th starts with BMW, marking it with a victory.
Auberlen had a racing debut alongside his father
Bill Auberlen was born on October 12, 1968, in Redondo Beach, California. As a teenager, he competed in motocross, switching to race cars in 1987. His first race was the greatest one, the Daytona 24h race. One of his co-drivers in the #54 SP Racing's Porsche 911 Carrera was his father Gary. They didn't finish the race because of engine failure. Bill competed full season in the 1987 IMSA GTU Championship, scoring one podium (2nd place at Sebring 12hr) to finish 8th in the points.
In January 1988, Bill and his father, joined by Adrian Gang and Cary Eisenlohr, finished second at 24 hours of Daytona, still driving SP Racing's Porsche. It was Bill's only podium in 1988 and he finished 9th in the IMSA GTU classification. Bill's father Gary retired from racing after 1989 Daytona's race, which they didn't finish.
Driving Mazda RX-7 from 1990
From 1990 season, Bill was driving Mazda RX-7 for his own team, gaining some notable results, such were wins at Road America, Lime Rock Park and Phoenix, but he also won two IMSA races in Japan, at Fuji and Autopolis.
In 1995, Auberlen returned to Porsche, joining Daytona Racing team at Daytona 24-hour race. He was driving the Porsche 993 Carrera RSR alongside four more drivers, but they retired after 587 laps. Six weeks later, Bill was driving Alex Job Racing's Porsche 911 at Sebring 12h, taking GTS-2 class victory. Later in the season, he added four more wins with his Mazda RX-7 and finished second in the GTS-2 championship standings.
Bill was the 1996 Peruvian F3 champion
During 1995, Auberlen also tried open-wheel racing, participating in two races of the Atlantic Championship. In 1996, he expanded his activities in that category of racing, participating in the Peruvian Formula 3 Championship. With four wins he won the title!
At American soil, he recorded his first attempt with WSC prototype, driving the #8 Hawk C-8 (Chevrolet) for Support Net Racing at Daytona 24h. He didn't reach the finish line. He had an unusual experience at 1996 Sebring 12h, competing with three different cars in three different classes. He was driving Support Net's Hawk C-8 in WSC class, Juan Dibos' Ford Mustang in GTS-1 class and Alex Job Racing's Porsche 911 in GTS-2 class.
First experience with BMW in 1996
The season 1996 was also significant because Auberlen joined BMW for the first time, driving Prototype Technology Group's BMW M3 at Texas 500-mile race in May. Later in the season, he scored three podiums but the first big success with BMW followed a year later when he became the 1997 IMSA GT-3 champion.
The PTG team's BMW M3 was victorious at five races, including both Daytona 24h and Sebring 12h. At Sebring, Auberlen's partners were Derek Hill, Javier Quiros and Tom Hessert, at Daytona they were joined by fifth driver Boris Said.
Except in the IMSA Championship, Auberlen was also active in the World Sportscar Championship and Atlantic Championship. He recorded three WSC races with Ferrari 333 SP and BMW-powered URD, scoring a 4th place at Lime Rock as the best result.
1998 - class wins at Daytona and Sebring
The season 1998 started with two class victories at 24 hours of Daytona and 12 hours of Sebring. Auberlen's teammates in the #10 PTG's BMW M3 at Daytona were Marc Duez, Boris Said and Peter Cunningham. At Sebring, Auberlen was sharing the car only with Boris Said. In April, Auberlen participated at IMSA race in Las Vegas with two different BMWs in two classes, winning both classes.
In total, Bill scored seven wins during 1998 season in the American sports car races. He also participated in the International Sports Racing Series with BMW Team Raffanelli's prototype, scoring two podiums at Brno and Nurburgring. At WSC season's finale at Laguna Seca, Auberlen and Didier de Radigues won the race with BMW Motorsport's Riley & Scott prototype.
Fourth place in Le Mans debut with McLaren F1 GTR
In June 1998, Auberlen participated for the first time at 24 hours of Le Mans, driving the #40 McLaren F1 GTR for Gulf Team Davidoff, alongside Tim Sugden and Steve O'Rourke. The trio finished fourth overall, behind two factory-entered Porsche 911 GT1s and Nissan Motorsport's R390 GT1.
In 1999, Bill Auberlen joined David Price and Thomas Bscher in their joint effort at the American Le Mans Series, competing with BMW V12 LM. In the ALMS championship, he scored three podiums to finish 9th in the points. The highlight of the year was his second Le Mans participation. The #18 car, driven by Auberlen, Steve Soper and Thomas Bscher, finished fifth overall.
Of other competitions, Auberlen was driving BMW M3 in the US Road Racing Championship, including Daytona 24h, where he recorded one more DNF.
Driving BMWs in different racing series
In 2000, Auberlen continued to combine driving duties with factory-entered BMW V12 LMR prototype in the American Le Mans Series and Genesis Racing's BMW M3 in the Grand American Road Racing Championship. At the end of the season, he was classified 9th in both series.
In 2001, Auberlen had a BMW M3 GT program both in the American Le Mans Series and Grand American Rolex Series, but he also entered the Speedvision World Challenge Touring Car competition for the first time, driving the BMW 325i for Turner Motorsport. His most impressive performance was at Lime Rock Park, where he started last (43rd) and won the race.
2002 Grand American Rolex Series GT winner with Ferrari
Auberlen wasn't driving BMWs in 2002 and he won the Grand American Rolex Series GT title in that season. He was driving Ferrari 360 GT for Scuderia Ferrari of Washington, alongside Cort Wagner. The pair scored five wins in ten races.
In the 2002 ALMS season, Auberlen's car was Panoz LMP1 prototype. He drove it in ten races, scoring one podium (Sears Points) and finishing ninth in the points. With that car, he also returned to Circuit de la Sarthe, competing in the 24-hour race together with David Donohue and Gunnar Jeannette. The trio retired after 230 laps because of engine failure.
Two World Challenge titles with BMW M3
In 2003, Auberlen returned to the cockpit of BMW cars in the Speed World Challenge, adding one more championship title to his CV. He was the Touring Car class champion with Turner Motorsport's BMW 325i. He was also driving BMW Team PTG's M3, taking 2nd place in the World Challenge GT class.
Other cars he was driving during 2003 were Toyota Doran prototype in the Grand American Rolex Series and Ferrari 550 Maranello in one race of the American Le Mans Series.
2004 was Bill's most successful season in a career
In 2004, Auberlen was a double champion. He won the second consecutive title in the Speed World Challenge Touring Car class with Turner Motorsport's BMW 325i, but also the Grand American Rolex Series GT title with PTG's BMW M3.
In total, he scored eleven wins and fourteen podiums in two competitions that year. He also added one victory in the Grand-Am GS Cup, making it his most successful season in a career. It was also his last season with championship titles on his name.
2005 Le Mans return with Panoz
Auberlen continued to collect victories in 2005, winning in all series he was competing (Grand American Rolex Series, World Challenge and Grand-Am Cup, American Le Mans Series), but without titles. In three competitions he was driving BMWs, in the ALMS he competed with Panoz Motorsports' Esperante GTLM. In June 2005, he returned to Le Mans, partnering Robin Liddell and Scott Maxwell in the #77 Panoz Esperante, but they retired early, after just 27 laps.
In the following years, Auberlen was competing in all major American sportscar series, mostly with BMW M3 or BMW-powered prototypes. Other manufacturers and teams also hired Auberlen, such were Panoz for 2007 ALMS season or Alex Job Racing for 2008 Grand American Rolex Series.
Bill helped Team RLL to win 2010 ALMS title
In 2010, Auberlen contributed to the team's championship title for BMW Rahal Letterman Racing in the American Le Mans Series. He was third in GT2 class drivers' standings. He repeated that result in 2011 ALMS season.
After many years with different versions of BMW M3, Auberlen started to race with Turner Motorsport's BMW M6 in the 2010 Grand American Rolex Series and then with Team RLL's BMW Z4 in 2013 American Le Mans Series. The next car he tried was Aston Martin Vantage V8, at his last Le Mans participation in 2013.
Last Le Mans participation with Aston Martin
At 2013 Le Mans 24-hour race, Auberlen was a member of Aston Martin Racing's #98 crew, together with Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy in the GTE Pro class, but they retired after 221 laps. It was his only attempt with Aston Martin, he continued to drive BMW Z4 GT3 for BMW Team RLL and scored two more Daytona podiums in 2014 and 2015.
In both races, he finished second in GTLM class. His partners in 2014 were Joey Hand, Andy Priaulx and Maxime Martin. A year later, he was sharing the car with Dirk Werner, Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler. In 2015, Auberlen was the runner-up in the GTLM class of the IMSA United SportsCar Championship.
2017 - reaching 400th start with BMW
For 2016, the new car came into a garage, the BMW M6 GTLM. At 2016 Daytona 24h, Auberlen/Werner/Farfus/Spengler finished fifth in class. Later in the season, Auberlen was sharing the car with Dirk Werner and they scored two podiums (2nd at Sebring, 3rd at Watkins Glen), finishing seventh in the points at the end of the season.
In the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Auberlen was again in a contention for the title, finishing second in the GTLM standings at the end of the season. He won three times, sharing a car with Alexander Sims. In the last round of the season, the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, Auberlen recorded his 400th start with BMW. He marked it with a victory, his 58th in the IMSA career, just two behind record-holder Scott Pruett.
In addition to his racing career, Auberlen is also known as a designer and builder of custom boats and bikes. Among others, he developed the record-breaking X Power Drive, a boat with a 1554-hp Chevrolet engine which broke many speed and acceleration records.