Bill Auberlen has been made available to BMW customer teams, which includes the possibility of race outings this year, BMW of North America Motorsport Manager Victor Leleu has revealed.
The development comes in the wake of his recent test with Turner Motorsport, which could see the 49-year-old Californian join the Will Turner-led squad in its GT Daytona class BMW M6 GT3 entry in selected races this season.
Auberlen, who was named a BMW of North America ambassador, has a reduced factory race program for 2018, having been confirmed in only the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races in the No. 25 Team RLL BMW M8 GTE.
While his Patron Endurance Cup program takes priority, Leleu said Auberlen has his blessing to contest additional races in BMW machinery.
“Part of Bill’s role as an ambassador is linked to customer racing,” Leleu told Sportscar365.” That’s why we wanted to support Will’s effort with Bill [in the test].
“If Will comes to me and says, ‘My guy wants to go racing and wants Bill in the car.’ Absolutely; We’d be 100 percent happy to have Bill in the car.”
Auberlen and Dillon Machavern took part in a two-day test with Turner’s BMW GT3 car at Mid-Ohio last week, in what Turner described as a “driver evaluation” test, utilizing Auberlen as the reference point.
Machavern, the reigning IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS champion, made his team debut in last month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and is understood to be eying a possible drive for the remainder of the season.
While Turner said a deal has yet to be reached, it’s believed Auberlen remains an option to pair with the 22-year-old for the remaining sprint rounds.
“Our customer racing [program in North America] has grown in the past three years from one or two cars to 70-something,” Leleu said.
“Bill representing what he represents for our brand, there’s no better ambassador in my opinion to stabilize and reinforce the effort moving forward.
“That’s what we wanted to focus on this. This was kind of the first opportunity.
“If, out of this, comes an opportunity to race and for Bill to be in the car, then we’d 100 percent be happy to have Bill in the car.
“If we keep him in the [Team RLL] car for the NAEC is obviously because he still has the speed. And who wouldn’t want to drive with Bill Auberlen?”
Auberlen has targeted a full-season return to WeatherTech Championship competition in 2019, ideally with Turner, in pursuit of becoming the all-time leader in IMSA victories.
He currently sits second, two wins behind Scott Pruett, who has since retired from professional racing.