Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon driver Yelmer Buurman has praised the team’s performance in getting him out in clear air as the squad stormed to provisional pole position at the Spa 24 Hours, the race where he and co-drivers Maro Engel and Luca Stolz began their final push for the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup championship last year.
The Mercedes-AMG GT3 team finished 0.081sec ahead of the other 71 cars on the grid for the blue-riband race, and Buurman gave credit to the team for both the car’s set-up and timing his run perfectly to find a rare gap in the traffic.
“The team did a great job because the car was really nice to drive and like usual it was prepared very well,” he said. “They gave me a nice gap on track with no traffic and obviously it’s very important in this race because there are 72 cars on a 7km track meaning there’s more than 10 cars per kilometre so there is a lot of traffic.
“These GT3 cars are pretty aero sensitive, not as bad Formula One obviously but you definitely have a disadvantage if you are following other cars too close.”
Black Falcon’s top time has put them into Super Pole for the top 20 cars to battle it out for key positions at the sharp-end of the field and with all the crews setting rapid times – just 0.884sec separated the 20 quickest crews in qualifying – it will be tougher than usual to get on the front.
But, as Buurman explained, this is a crucial race to be as close to the head of the field as possible: “Super Pole is important because you want to start out front and not in the middle of the pack. But at the same time, you have a race with a lot of safety cars and at that time the field bunches up so it’s not like at the Nordschliefe.
“There it’s basically always a green race were you have Code 60s but it’s just on sectors on the track and it never basically bunches up the field unless there is a red flag but that’s usually not the case so it’s very important to be at the front and race with the leaders.”
Despite the Black Falcon crew having half an eye on the overall Blancpain GT Series championship, Buurman is focusing more on claiming a first round-the-clock victory at Spa rather than ensuring he gathers enough points.
He added: “We’ll just go for the race this year and not think so much of the championship. Last year we weren’t in a much better situation [in the championship standings], we did win it eventually and we scored a lot of points here but now I think we just focus on this race and whatever happens happens and if we’re in a good position for the championship afterwards then fantastic, but we want to win this race.”
The race itself though, will see vastly different conditions to the scorching heat that has been dominant in practice and qualifying, with the forecast for rain for the vast majority of the 24 Hours. Buurman is happy that the team’s preparation for a set-up that works in both wet and dry has put them in a good position.
“With these endurance races you have so many which are just half-wet and half-dry or you know at least a dry start and it starts raining – or the other way around. So you cannot really work with a set-up that only works for the dry so in the end it’s good to get the preparation work done already and for sure there will be some dry running in the race but it looks like it will be mainly wet,” he said.
“We’re happy that it’s not as hot at the weekend as it has been so far because Thursday was crazy hot.”
Miguel Bosch contributed to this report.