Cyber Motorsports Event News

Cyber Motorsports Chats with Bill Auberlen

by Earl Cook

PSCR Grand Prix of Atlanta

June 19, 1998

Bill Auberlen

Bill Auberlen

Cyber Motorsports: Congratulations on a successful race at Le Mans. What is your most vivid memory of Le Mans now that you are back? [Le Mans was June 6-7]

Bill Auberlen: Well, you have a couple of memories. One, is when you first get there and unload the car at scrutineering in the middle of town, and when you do it, people come out of everywhere to the center of town and as the car comes down the liftgate, the car absolutely disappears in a crowd of people. For about a half hour, you actually can not get near your own car. The officials just sit there and just allow the people around it. It actually got so bad that Mercedes would not unload their cars for fear that pieces would get ripped off their cars. So, it takes awhile to get the crowd under control and then it enters into a ten-stage scrutineering. They put the cars up on racks, they put it into different things and it takes about three, three and a half hours and if it passes, it comes out the other side and there are pictures and then off it goes.

Cyber: Had you actually driven a McLaren F1 before you got to Europe?

BA: Yeah, I tested that particular car in England for about twenty minutes to make sure that is what I wanted and to make sure that is what they wanted. In Monza, I tested the BMW/FINA car, the one that Soper and Lehto drove last year. We did that earlier in the year at Monza.

Cyber: What is it like to drive a McLaren?

BA: Well, at Le Mans, getting back to the most vivid memories, after the scrutineering, then the next day all the drivers do a parade through town. All these old cars show up and convertibles, they crank the cars up by hand and fire them up, and myself and my teammates sat on the back with this beautiful young lady holding our names on a board for three hours as we went through lines of people and kids running up to get your autograph. At every corner, there was a different band playing music. It was unbelievable, and so here we are, and I was thinking this is fantastic!

And another huge memory is as I get into the car, take off on pit lane, and you are going the speed limit, dadadada, while you hit the [pit lane limiter] button. There are people lining the pit wall hanging over the edge, and they are so close that they can touch the cars as they come out. You hear all these stories, Mulsanne Straight, Mulsanne Straight, and that you can lose where you are. The first time I was heading down the straightaway and I was going 200 mph and I am thinking, "Where am I?" You are straining your eyes for all they are worth and trying to determine where the braking zones are. So for the first time, I was half way down the straight and I hit my brakes and then re-accelerated. Sure enough, I get half way down there and I hit my brakes, look around, hit the accelerator again. You just don't know where you are. It takes awhile to learn the track. It took me 15 laps to learn the track. You only get three laps a session on the track because it takes so long to get around the track. Then your teammates have their turn. We did a day session, a session at night and then the next morning I came out and I was right on top of my game.

Cyber: I have always been interested in how the center driving position in the McLaren affects the driver.

BA: If I sit on the right in a World Sports Car, the left in a Touring Car, it really doesn't matter. You forget where you are. The only time you realize you are in a McLaren is the pit stop and you open the door and you realize there is no one there, but they [the driver] is up there (motioning to the front). So, you must drag the guy out and then you slink your way in front. You get in and belt yourself in. It is beautiful the way the GTC team does it. I look down, I get my seat in the right position, there are three sets of lap belts, all color-coded, and I just grab my blue ones, clip them in, I was totally set up, I then look up and the other belts are hanging there spring-loaded. GTC is very, very professional.

When you get in, the motor is dead, because at Le Mans you have to turn it off. It is really quite when you get in while they are refueling and it is totally awesome. All you can hear is clink, clink as you put your belts in and the guy working next to you. And for a brief moment there is dead silence. The guy pulls the fueling probe out, and it is like a total tornado because the tires are changing and everything they have got to do. And as soon as they are done, the car goes down, you are told to fire it up. And right before you fire it up, you turn the ignition on, and you see that the brains start sending signals to the dash, the dash sends signals to the car, and it tells you all what is happening right there on the dash. Pretty awesome.

Cyber: You drove at day and night. Which do you like better?

BA: You know, it is kind of weird. In the day, I like to see all the people and everywhere I go I can see them, I can see that they are enjoying it and all the festivities. And at night, it is kind of weird, but everywhere you go at night, every corner you come to, there are flashbulbs. Flash, flash, every single turn. So, they are still looking, you just can't see them. At night is initially a kind of spooky thing at Le Mans, because you are very fast, since the car is as fast or faster at night. The motor runs better and the tires are cooler and you can seriously out-drive your headlights. It just takes awhile to get used to it, but I like daytime better.

Cyber: Is it disconcerting to be coming around a curve and having flashbulbs flashing in your eyes?

BA: Sometimes. But the photographers must do their job. Initially they bother you, but there are so many of them, you get used to it.

Cyber: Which part of the track did you like the most?

BA: I like Mulsanne Corner, because it is real fast coming into it and you go down to first or second gear and then you are off. I also like the turn before Indianapolis, which is a really fast right-hander which leads you into the banking at Indianapolis. That combination is great. After the Dunlop Curve there is a roller coaster, I forget what you call it, and with a new set of tires and with the ground effects of the GT1 cars it works so well and it is so fast through there. It is really an awesome feeling.

Cyber: Any close calls?

BA: Just one. In my first stint, I get out there and I was just passing people and everything and all of a sudden, the Agusta World Sports Car, I passed him on the inside and apparently he did not see me and he cuts in and I do a one-eighty and pitch it sideways to miss him and then drove on. I thought, "If this is the way it is going to be, it is going to be tough!" After that, I had smooth sailing.

My owner, Steve O'Rourke, in his first stint, spun at Indianapolis, touched the wall and tore the right-side mirror off. From then on, we drove the whole race with just the left-side mirror. That made it tough sometimes. What you tended to do was come out of a turn and then to drift to the right no matter what so that you could check behind you using the left mirror. We, the McLarens, were the quickest car down the straight so nobody would really pass us on the straights, but on turns, they would sneak away.

Cyber: Thank you, very much and good luck this weekend.

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