It takes a couple of seconds, then the memory comes back: last time Yelmer Buurman visited the Nürburgring podium was at the end of 2015. It’s been long overdue, but at the 49. ADAC Barbarossapreis the Dutchman finally returned when he drove to second place in what was his first outing in VLN since spring.
“Finally, I’m on the VLN podium again,” the Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver says. “It’s also been a while since my last VLN race here. I was here two weeks ago to race, but that was over after qualifying when my teammate unfortunately had a big off. Before that it was the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, so that’s a while ago.”
Today luck is more on his side, but that Buurman doesn’t know yet when qualifying is over.
“I did the final part of qualifying, the part where usually the quickest times are posted. Many cars decided to stay on track until the end because of the tough circumstances at the beginning, with the wet parts and whether or not to go out on rain tyres.
“At most VLN races you see everyone on track until 20 to 15 minutes before the end, when most of the cars come in to let the big boys play. That didn’t happen today and I was held up by traffic. I found myself behind traffic at the wrong places and couldn’t really set a fast time. I lost a lot of time being stuck behind several cars.
“We were tenth on the grid and when that’s your starting position in such a competitive field, you know it’s going to be tough. I didn’t expect to finish on the podium any more. But, nothing is impossible and we did expect some rain during the race, so of course you hope everything will fall into place and you make the right decisions as a team and get to the front in that way.
“But, realistically, that chance of course was very slim.”
When the lights go green, Buurman is on it, challenging the cars ahead. A slight hold-up in the first corners, and then it’s off to the front.
“I had a good start, but going into the third corner I was boxed in behind a slower car and they were able to get alongside and inside for the next corner to pass me. I lost all gained places and could start over again.
“In the rest of my stint I’ve had some fun fights and overtook quite a bit. It was pretty exciting sometimes and they were some hard battles. Like, going into Tiergarten with the [Walkenhorst] BMW.
“I was behind the BMW and pushing for a while, but it’s impossible to get alongside it. At Galgenkopf he was held up by traffic so I could gather a bit more speed going onto Döttinger Höhe and then you’re able to get alongside, but that’s as far as it’ll go. For much of the straight we were side by side.
“We went into Tiergarten and I was on the outside. I was determined to overtake, so I stuck to it. He then lifted—he had to or it would’ve been very tight.
“I was able to drive further to the front and hand the car over to Hubert in sixth place.”
Armed with Michelin rubber, in the rain the experienced Hubert Haupt pushes onward to second place. The German’s high pace, pivotal for the final result, surprised Buurman.
“Hubert felt at ease and the car was working great, he went like a rocket. He really drove very well.
“We were back on Michelin tyres. In the past we did VLN on Dunlops, but the Michelins seem to be the best tyres in these circumstances. We’re happy with the choice.”
And so Buurman’s third season in the Mercedes-AMG fold ends on the podium. Although nothing has been set in stone yet, the works driver hopes to pick up where he left off with the manufacturer from Stuttgart after the winter.
“That’s the plan. At the moment we’re still looking at teams and what they’ll do with which cars, et cetera. It’ll take some time, but it’s looking good.”