Bill Auberlen thought it was too good to be true for the car that crossed the finish line first Sunday to win the GT Daytona (GTD) portion of the Lexus Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio. It turns out that it was.
The No. 70 inception racing McLaren 720S GT3 had its maiden IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory nullified when the car was found underweight in post-race technical inspection. The No. 70 was moved to the rear of the class finishing order, which advanced Auberlen, Robby Foley and the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 to the victory.
The win pushes Auberlen’s all-time record victory total in IMSA’s top-level series to 65, six of those coming at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Foley picked up career win No. 7 as he and Auberlen repeated their Mid-Ohio GTD triumph from 2021.
Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW moved up to second place in the results, with the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 shared by Frankie Montecalvo and Aaron Telitz taking third to round out the podium.
Auberlen said this isn’t the first win he’s been handed after the trophies were handed out.
“I think so,” he said, “and I’ve lost a win like this too. I’ve had them come and take the trophies away and I’ve had them give the trophies to me. I’ve already had a call from Bryan Sellers. He’s like, ‘Where’s my second-place trophy?’ I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, I need the first-place trophy!’”
The situation unfolded when Jordan Pepper coaxed 56 laps (six under the only full-course caution of the race) out of the No. 70 McLaren in its final stint on the 2.258-mile 13-turn road course to take the checkered flag first, passing Sellers, Auberlen and five others along the way to move from eighth place to first in the final hour. The No. 96 BMW crossed the line second and the No. 1 BMW third.
A pact made between the two BMW teams kept them close behind the McLaren.
“Bryan Sellers and I made an agreement on the radio – our teams were talking – that we were going to work together to save as much fuel as we could and leave it to about a lap and a half at the end,” Auberlen said. “That’s how much fuel we would have that we could race at least one lap to try to defend.
“The McLaren caught us too early, so we had to just let him by, and we thought for sure he wasn’t going to make it, no way. Turns out he’s underweight, and we did the best we could. We barely finished with fuel.”
It was early race strategy that put the No. 96 in position to gain the first WeatherTech Championship win for the new BMW M4 GT3. Foley started from fourth position but was called in for an early pit stop to put on new tires and have clear track while the leaders were turning slower laps in traffic on older tires.
“It’s awesome,” Foley said. “Two (wins) in a row at Mid-Ohio is good. … Our general strategy worked out quite well. We stopped first, got on new tires early and then kind of banged out some good laps in clear air, which put us in a good position for the end of the race.”
On a day when Jan Heylen and Ryan Hardwick brought the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R home a distant ninth in the revised results, the GTD standings have a new leader in Stevan McAleer and the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes, which finished sixth Sunday with co-driver Mike Skeen.
McAleer holds a 12-point advantage over Heylen and Hardwick heading into the next round of the season, the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park on Saturday, June 4. Foley and Auberlen are 76 points behind McAleer.
Sellers, Snow and the No. 1 BMW retained the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup lead, 34 points ahead of Auberlen, Foley and the No. 96 BMW.
“Great to get the first win in this new car for Turner,” Foley said. “Everybody did a great job. Don Salama on our pit box was calculating fuel numbers down to the tenth of a liter, so it was getting pretty insane. Great day.”