“Unbelievable. This thing was a rocket all day,” said Auberlen, who scored his first Long Beach win after a number of close calls in a variety of series. “We had some bad luck; that bad luck turned to good luck. Our pit strategy worked out perfect. Everybody here in Long Beach, I’m from Redondo Beach. I’m your neighbor and I love you guys. I’ve wanted to win this thing forever and never have. What a great day for BMW.”
It didn’t look too promising early. Martin lost time on the track early when he went into the turn one run-off after going into the corner carrying too much speed. He regained a couple of positions before handing off to Auberlen, who pitted twice to top off the BMW’s fuel tank during the race’s final caution period with 73 minutes left.
Farnbacher and Marc Goossens placed third for SRT Motorsports and the No. 91 SRT Viper GTS-R.
Colin Braun and team owner Jon Bennett took the Prototype Challenge presented by Continental Tire class victory for CORE autosport. Braun in the No. 05 ORECA FLM09 finished third overall after leading the race near the midway point. Bennett pitted from third in class at the 40-minute mark, and Braun assumed the lead for good five minutes later on the race’s final restart.
Braun led overall for 10 minutes before Graf got around him.
“This was my first time leading an ALMS race overall. I did it for what felt like forever,” he said. “I thought maybe we could have won it. I had a great coaching from the pits to help me conserve the fuel to get it all the way to the end. What a great win.”
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ Luis Diaz and David Cheng finished second in class, followed by class pole-winner Bruno Junqueira and Duncan Ende for RSR Racing.
CORE’s victory came less than three weeks after team member and Bennett’s business partner Ralph Brown passed away following a brain aneurism in September. That made Saturday even more meaningful to Bennett and his team.
“I took to racing because of the manufacturing company that I own. I get to go racing because I had a great partner back home keeping the business racing,” Bennett said in tribute. “We definitely had some help from above looking over us. I’m really proud to have a win today.”
NGT Motorsport’s Sean Edwards held of a late challenge from Spencer Pumpelly and won with Henrique Cisneros in GT Challenge by just 2.130 seconds. Both NGT teammates led during their stints, and Edwards took the lead for good shortly after the race’s last restart.
He went nearly 80 minutes on the same Yokohama tires and fuel.
“I was in fuel-save mode the whole way,” Edwards said. “I had an afternoon of short-shifting and trying to manage the gap (back to Pumpelly), and keeping the gaps as even as possible. I wish all races were as easy as this. We had a strong car today and the team did a great job with setup.”
The NGT crew won the race with its only pit stop; the No. 30 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup took 15 seconds less to complete its stop than the No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche.
“Neither of [Cisneros or Edwards] had driven here before,” Cisneros said. “Straight out of the box we were fast. We had some close calls early and good passing throughout. Sean did a great job keeping it together to the end.”
Nelson Canache Jr., drove with Pumpelly in the runner-up No. 45. The No. 44 Flying Lizard Porsche of Brian Wong and Dion von Moltke placed third.