Black Falcon came so close to prolongating its Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup championship title, only to be beaten in a direct battle with Orange1 FFF Racing. The season finale at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya left the German team empty-handed after a year in which it fought on all fronts of the Blancpain GT championships. Driver of the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 Yelmer Buurman believes the team can still look back on the season and be satisfied with its performance.
Having grabbed the lead in the opening laps of the race while the championship-leading #72 SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 plummeted down the order after a first-lap incident, Maro Engel put the blue-coloured Mercedes-AMG in the position where it could make a successful last stand to not only conquer the overall Blancpain GT Series title, but defending its Endurance Cup title as well.
Challenger Orange1 FFF Racing, however, were masterful when it came to the restarts, with Marco Mapelli shooting past Luca Stolz at one of the restarts in the second hour of the race.
“You saw it immediately at the start, the Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini was so quick, it was ridiculous,” Yelmer Buurman said. “It was like they found an extra gear, it was bizarre. We didn’t stand a chance.
“Luca then got hit from behind during his stint by the #563 Lamborghini which damaged our exhaust. We weren’t able to extract the maximum amount of power from the car after that and we lost some top speed. It was just a few kilometres, but that does make it very tough in this kind of competitive racing.”
Despite the sustained damage and the seemingly unbeatable FFF Lamborghini leading the race, Yelmer Buurman soldiered on into the final hour in second place. With the clock reaching the end of the third hour, the Dutchman found himself challenged by Dries Vanthoor in the #2 WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3. Vanthoor’s last-ditch effort to grab second place ended with both cars colliding and dropping outside the top ten.
“It didn’t matter for the championship, eventually, because we still would’ve finished third in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup regardless, but the podium was gone.”
The race in Barcelona ended a strong year for Black Falcon in which it also fought for Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe honours. Although they have no titles to show for it, Buurman believes that remaining in the fight until the end for two years in a row is a feat in itself.
“When you’re fighting for the championship two consecutive years – last year we won and this year it was very close – you may absolutely be very satisfied. Of course, there are always moments on which you look back, races where things didn’t go as well.
“All in all, the team did a great job and I think us drivers did as well. That’s one of our strong suits, that we’re all three very fast drivers who are fairly equal. We also demand the same from the car, which makes us more efficient in qualifying where the times are combined. That makes that we’re always far to the front.
“Only in Silverstone we had some bad luck in qualifying because of three red flags in a row and we were at the back of the pits. We didn’t manage to set a time and had to start from the back of the grid. If Maro would’ve been able to finish his lap – he just needed a few hundred meters more to reach the finish – we would’ve been on pole with some tenths to spare. It’s that kinds of moments that cost serious points.”
The Spa 24 Hours, on the other hand, is one of those moments this year that the driver from Gelderland looks back on with much fondness. Through the dreary Ardennes weather, Black Falcon finished a strong third place in tough conditions.
“Spa was a great race. It was unfortunate that not the whole race was wet. We were very fast; it was going very well. Only the final two or three hours were dry with some showers. We could race on slicks but didn’t really have the pace to win on them. If it would’ve been the other way around, if the first hours would’ve been dry and it was wet at the end, we would’ve had a very good chance to win, perhaps we even would’ve won it. That was a great race and a highlight of the season.”
With the Blancpain GT season now over, Buurman returns to the Nürburgring for one or two more rounds of the VLN championship with Black Falcon and ends the year racing in the much-anticipated Kyalami 9 Hours.
The Mercedes-AMG works driver is hopeful of putting together a similar program for 2020 and fulfilling his long-held wish of getting back into sprint racing.
“At the least I hope to do the same program as this year with some extra races, but nothing is definite yet. I would like to do the sprint races, but we’ll have to see.”