One hour into the race in Monza Black Falcon looks set to take the lead and storm off to victory in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup season-opener. After a high-paced stint by Maro Engel, Luca Stolz arrives at the back of the race-leading SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 and gets set to overtake Mikhail Aleshin when the number 4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 is given a drive-through penalty for speeding during a Full Course Yellow. The German crew eventually recovers to third place after a hard-fought battle between Yelmer Buurman and the Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, but by the time the Dutchman reaches third place the win is out of reach.
“In the end it’s a nice result, we didn’t expect this halfway through the race,” Yelmer Buurman says.
“We were handed a drive-through penalty and I don’t think it was really clear—I don’t think Maro could’ve done anything about it. It’s just how it goes sometimes.
“Luca brought back the car in P6 and with a good pitstop we returned on track in fourth, that was great. We managed a couple of very quick lap times and I think that’s also how we caught some cars.”
The early-race frontrunners just needed to go past the championship title defending Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Christian Engelhart to reach the podium. With the race nearing its end, Buurman had to go for it.
“After five or six lap I had closed the gap to Christian Engelhart’s Grasser Lambo. He was very tough to overtake, he knew exactly what to do to keep me behind him. On the frontstretch they are just a little bit faster and you can’t go past.
“It was a hard fight, I was constantly on his rear bumper but couldn’t do anything.
“Then at one point he made a small mistake in the second chicane and because of that went a bit too wide in Lesmo 1—I think he overheated his rear tyres under braking for the second chicane—and I had a much better exit. However, a car up ahead had spun and I had to lift off again. That was so frustrating because I had been behind him for so long and wasn’t given any chance and now I got him.
“I had to try again and eventually was able to catch him via the inside of the final corner. We were side by side the whole frontstretch and going into the first chicane I was on the inside. I had him.
“It was pretty exciting. My engineer was yelling on the radio, ‘keep him on the left!’–he likes to talk! The Jaguar got very close because it had a good exit and was very quick on the frontstretch. I had to defend there but it all went well.
“After that the race was really done. The gap to first and second was too big and behind us we also had some breathing space.”
Normally the place where Italian machines reign supreme, AMG’s top performance in Monza came as a surprise to Buurman. Perhaps the AMG’s performance even warranted the win, Buurman agrees.
“The team and my team-mates did a superb job, we can all be extremely satisfied.
“AMG has had a lot of success over the past few years; the AMG is a very strong all-round car. That we would do so well here is something we didn’t expect before the weekend. We did knew that if everything would go well we’d have a good chance to finish on the podium, but then everything would have come together perfectly.
“Today we had a drive-through penalty and still here we are on the podium, that’s pretty mind-blowing.
“But, yes, perhaps we should have won.”