LAKEVILLE, Conn. (14 July 2021) – Not long ago, Robby Foley was a youngster sitting on the hillside at Lime Rock Park, cheering for Turner Autosport and lead driver Bill Auberlen.
GTD point leaders Foley and Auberlen will co-drive the No. 96 LiquiMoly/H&R Springs BMW M6 GT3 in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race Saturday at 3:10 p.m. ET, using the seven-turn, 1.474-mile course using the chicane at the end of the backstraight.
Earlier, Foley races the No. 96 LiquiMoly/H&R Springs BMW M4 GT4 with Vincent Barletta in the Michelin Pilot Challenge, using the classic 1.478-mile layout without the chicane. GS championship leaders Auberlen and Dillon Machavern share Turner’s No. 95 BMW in the two-hour race, set to start at 11:05 a.m. ET.
“Lime Rock is a unique, interesting track,” Foley said. “Apart from one left-hand turn, we’re turning right all the time, and your speed is pretty constant.”
Given the quick laps and high speeds, finding places to pass is a constant challenge. That puts a premium on braking. One opportunity to gain position is the entry to “Big Bend,” the Turns 1-2 complex following the Sam Posey Straight.
“Big Bend is a unique corner, because it’s long and it’s a double apex,” Foley said. “I said double apex; a lot of people try to do a late single apex. For me, I’m braking as late as I can. Hard, initially, and then immediately trailing off the brake to try to carry as much speed as possible into the corner as you can. If you don’t carry that speed, you’re going to lose time from the point you turn in through the center of Big Bend. I’m always trying to carry in as much speed as I can, and slow the car down to the point where I can rotate the car for the second apex.”
Foley’s other big challenge this weekend will be moving back and forth between the two BMWs for the two races – which each use a different layout at the top of the uphill. While he needs to brake the GTD car for the chicane, he nearly catches air at the top of the hill in the GS car that uses the traditional circuit.
“In the GT4 car in GS, we run the uphill,” Foley said. “We actually catch some air there. In the GS car, the technique there is to use a light, moderate brake. You’re trying to carry as much speed as you can to the point where you actually spin the rear tires a little. It’s an interesting, exciting corner in GS.
“But in GTD, in the WeatherTech race, we’re going to use the chicane. That requires a totally different approach, with a hard threshold braking zone. That’s probably the slowest corner we do all year, apart from maybe the hairpin at Long Beach. It’s hard braking, going all the way down to second gear. It’s all about maximizing your straight-line braking, braking as late as possible, getting the car turned at the apex and then getting an exit up the hill.
“That’s two completely opposite corners at the same part of the track, depending on which car we’re driving,” Foley continued. “Driving the two different cars, it’s a unique challenge. They’re both BMWs, they’re both rear-wheel drive, but they have very different characteristics. The GTD car is quite a bit faster, more downforce, more power, less weight. Things happen a lot faster there.
“So you have to take a step back with the GT4 car, because if you drive it like the GT3 car you’ll go right off the track. It’s an interesting challenge, but ultimately, we’re driving the same line around the track and you’re trying to achieve a lap time in the same way. The cars just do it differently. The biggest difference is the lack of downforce in the GT4 car. You have brake a little bit earlier, and not expect to have the same grip in the corners.”
Turner Motorsport traditionally brings a large contingent to Lime Rock, with friends and business guests joining the Massachusetts-based team. It’s also a home race from Foley, who often traveled to the circuit from his home in Randolph, N.J.
“It’s great to be with Turner for their home race, but I also consider Lime Rock as my home track as well,” Foley said. “I remember vividly sitting on the hill as a kid in the Left-Hander, watching Turner Motorsport, watching Bill [Auberlen]. For a home race as a team – and for myself – it’s always very special. The team will have a lot of extra guests, friends and family of both the team and mine all there in support, so we’ll try to bring home a good result for the home crowd.”