SEBRING, Fla. (March 16, 2006) – Bill Auberlen, of Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., will be on the pole for Friday’s SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car race, part of the 54th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, after setting a new track record during qualifying Thursday at Sebring International Raceway. Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., was second fastest and will start alongside Auberlen, while Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., will start third.-30-
Auberlen needed just one flying lap in his No. 2 Turner Motorsports/H&R Springs BMW 325i to land the 13th pole of his SPEED World Challenge career, taking the top spot on the grid with a record-setting 2:19.040 (95.799 mph).
“It was by design,” Auberlen said when asked about entering the track near the back of the field. “I’m not in the top 10 in points, so if you can’t get out in the front, I didn’t really want to get out in the middle, so I went out in the back. From there, I had a pretty good idea I could get some space away from everybody.
“The big deal is if somebody wrecks, you don’t get a lap. But, that’s the risk you take. It worked out, the Toyo tires were really good on the lap, we banged a lap out and the car was pretty much right on the money.”
Auberlen’s time was especially impressive considering he was under pressure to turn a fast lap quickly because of a blown head gasket – something that plagued his BMW during Wednesday’s practice.
“I was only able to do one lap because the head gasket went bad and dumped all the water out,” Auberlen said. “That’s the same issue we had yesterday, but we didn’t have a head gasket. So, we had to put water in it, do a Hail Mary, get one lap as hard as I could and that was all we were going to get.”
For taking the pole, Auberlen earned five points toward his SPEED Touring Car Drivers’ Championship total. The 2003 and 2004 series Champion currently plans to run the initial three races, hoping to secure additional funding to complete the season.
Espenlaub, farther ahead in the field, crossed the start/finish stripe sooner than Auberlen and held the top spot briefly after turning a 2:19.515 (95.473 mph) in his No. 97 Sparco/Oakley/Tindol Motorsport Mazda 6. Had his time stuck, it would have been the second pole of his career.
After three RealTime Racing Acuras swept combined practice Wednesday, Kleinubing, in the No. 42 Acura Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles Acura TSX, was the lone RealTime entry in the top three after running a 2:19.794 (95.283 mph).
Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., and Seth Thomas, of Cumming, Ga., will start fourth and fifth in a Mazda 6 and BMW 325i, respectively. In all, the top 19 cars were under Auberlen’s 2004 qualifying mark of 2:23.199. Qualifying for the 2005 event was rained out and the grid set on practice times.
The SCCA SPEED Touring Car race, part of the 54th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, is scheduled for 11:25 a.m. Friday.
To watch the race via live lap notes and timing and scoring presented by SRT, visit www.world-challenge.com and click on the Sebring event homepage. Friday’s race will be broadcast on SPEED Channel at 3 p.m. on Sunday. All times are Eastern.