Mario Farnbacher, Trent Hindman secure GTD title in Atlanta as Bill Auberlen ties IMSA record with last-lap miracle win
Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman with Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian take driver’s title as Lamborghini wins manufacturers title
Happy birthday, Bill Auberlen.
On Saturday night, the now-51-year-old matched Scott Pruett’s record for the most IMSA victories by a driver at 60 following a spectacular performance to win in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
It came down to the final 10 minutes of the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans, the season finale for the 2019 WeatherTech Championship season. In the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, Auberlen had been hunting the leader, Felipe Fraga, in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Following a restart with 25 minutes remaining, Fraga impressively kept Auberlen at bay. But on the final lap, Fraga suddenly drove off course in “The Esses” and Auberlen was able to get by to earn the record-tying victory. Fraga, who pitted seven minutes sooner than Auberlen’s final stop, ultimately ran out of fuel.
The victory, to which Auberlen co-drove with Robby Foley and Dillon Machavern, had been hard to come by for the IMSA veteran. He sat at 58 wins for nearly two years before collecting 59 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.
“I’m so glad BMW still sees I can get it done,” said Auberlen. “To tie 60 wins with Scott Pruett, it just shows how great of a career BMW has allowed me to have — winning in these BMWs day in and day out. Now to be tied with the most wins in America.
“When you look back, you get to see how many unique wins there have been,” he added. “When I look at my trophy case and I get to add this to it, all of it is a bunch of great memories. I’ll never forget all the joy it brings from the camaraderie. Every single weekend you go to battle with a group of guys who would die for you and you would die for them. You come with everything you have, and to get to do that with BMW for 23 years now, it has been a great road that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
Saturday’s results put Auberlen and Foley in another tie – for second place in the final GTD championship standings. The duo and Zacharie Robichon both own 262 marks apiece and two victories this season, but the No. 96 BMW scored one runner-up finish at Watkins Glen International in June to break the tie.
Finishing second on Saturday but also looming large in Auberlen’s mirror during the closing laps was the No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Christopher Mies, Daniel Morad and Ricky Feller. Rounding out the final podium of the season was the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Robichon, Scott Hargrove and Lars Kern.
Meanwhile, entering Saturday’s race with a 32-point lead in the GTD standings, Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman locked up the 2019 WeatherTech Championship GTD title merely by taking the green flag in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3. The race didn’t quite go as planned, however, as the No. 86 was forced to retire midway through the race after debris broke through the front of the car and caused several mechanical issues.
It was an unfortunate end to the race, but in the end, the full-season title is a first for both drivers in the WeatherTech Championship – as well as for team co-owner Michael Shank. Farnbacher previously won the 2017 Michelin Endurance Cup in GTD and Hindman’s resumé already boasts championships in the Michelin Pilot Challenge and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America.
“This is certainly the most significant,” said Hindman. “It was an unbelievable opportunity to be in the WeatherTech GTD paddock. It’s a championship that I’ve been trying to get myself in for so long now. From the time I won the Pilot championship to now, it’s been a full five years. This is my first full season in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship competition, so I think that amount of time has prepared me correctly for this opportunity, and ultimately, working with some great people also made this happen. This is certainly the highlight of my career.”
“I have grown up here,” said Farnbacher, who has competed in a variety of sports car racing series around the world. “I drove the (Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring) back in the ALMS, but it was my first race here and it was my first in the U.S. racing. Then later on, I got my first full-season ride here and I just built myself up here. My brother was around here, my father, with some teams. It’s nice, if you look at the whole picture, my whole family was here. Now to be successful, to put my family name in the book, it means a lot to me.”
For the third consecutive year, the No. 33 Riley Motorsports – Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3 earned the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup in the GTD class with drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen. As the team’s endurance driver, Fraga scored the IMEC driver title as well.