Finding a driver to take on the Top 30 Shoot-out for the Nürburgring 24 Hours Qualifying Race is never a hard sell. It’s a rare opportunity to set an official lap time at the Nürburgring without interference of slower cars.
Yelmer Buurman was happy to take on the challenge on the morning before the race, setting a lap time of 9:20.698 on the wet and daunting Eifel track to earn pole position and securing a place in the Top 30 Shoot-out during the actual qualification for the Nürburgring 24 Hours in Juny.
The Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 team couldn’t live up to its morning promise, however, as it finished fifth without a chance to contend for victory.
“Contrary to the Nürburgring 24 Hours, at the Qualifying Race we only get one lap and that’s a lot of fun,” Buurman said. “It’s just one lap, nothing more, nothing less – although it could be less if you’re unlucky!
“The car felt good and gave us a lot of confidence, we went for it. I started to reel in the Rowe BMW, a car that usually is pretty fast in the rain. That’s when I knew it was going rather well. We do have a display with a reference time from earlier sessions and I saw I was quicker, but you never know how fast the others are going.
“I crossed the line in P1 but feared that because the track was drying and there were a lot of cars behind me still coming over the finish that they’d improve on my time. No-one did, however, and we took pole position.”
With no time to celebrate his pole, Buurman was back in the Mercedes-AMG GT3 45 minutes later to begin the 6-hour endurance race. Despite the perfect starting point for the hours to come, Buurman stumbled through the first lap on his rain tyres, dropping down the field before a quick pitstop to change to the more weather-suited slick tyres.
“Something went wrong with the tyre pressure,” the Dutchman explained. “We went way too high – the first lap was a struggle and I dropped back.”
“However, it wasn’t a disaster as I came in after the first lap to change to slicks. On those tyres it went great, I had a superb pace and was able to climb back up the order and pass some cars that had earlier passed me but were still on rain tyres.”
While at the front the BMWs called the shots, Buurman could only admire the pace the Bayern cars had.
“At that moment we were best of the rest. The BMWs were very fast. The Porsche was also very fast, but the BMWs were just driving off at the front.
“I did a stint of an hour and a half after which Gabriele Piana took over, followed by Nico Bastian and Patrick Assenheimer, who all did a fantastic job.”
Although Buurman was happy with his own team’s performance, he reluctantly calls the BMWs’ speed into question.
“If you ignore the BMWs, our speed was very good,” the Mercedes-AMG works driver said. “In that regard we feel confident going into the 24 Hours, but something definitely needs to happen.
“I don’t really want to talk about it, but the BMWs’ theoretical lap time is 7 seconds quicker than ours. The organisation nowadays looks at the combined best times from the 42 sectors around the track for a theoretical lap time. Lifting off before the finish line is therefor of no use anymore. That’s where we are 7 seconds behind and that’s quite a lot, but I do expect something to be changed.
“Either way, I’m sure we’ll get a fair chance during the 24 Hours.”
The main purpose of the two-day Nürburgring 24 Hours Qualifying Race event is getting additional track time, something which Black Falcon used to great extent.
“We learned a lot today. That’s one thing these weekends are very useful for. Testing here is always a bit of a challenge, they always seem to be plagued by rain and other circumstances that aren’t particularly helpful.
“During a weekend like this you make a lot of kilometres in the car and use it for testing – not during the race, however, that’s when you want to perform and be at the front. During practice you can try out different tyre pressures, compounds, set-ups, et cetera. That was good because in terms of driving time we’ve had a good weekend, we managed to drive a lot.
“Our sister car had an accident on Saturday together with another Mercedes-AMG. It was a strange situation, just back luck. Most importantly both guys are OK and will hopefully be at the start for the 24 Hours in five weeks. It won’t help that they didn’t drive this weekend, but we did gain experience so we can help them out with that.
“I’m sure it’ll all work out fine. I feel very confident for the 24 Hours!”