Yelmer Buurman is confident ERC Sport can continue to challenge at the front after a podium-winning debut to open the 2018 British GT Championship season at Oulton Park.
Having topped the testing time-sheets in the days building up to the Oulton season-opener, a frustrating first qualifying left Buurman’s AM partner Lee Mowle ninth on the grid in the Mercedes-AMG GT3 for race one of the weekend underneath the rainy skies of the Cheshire circuit.
An inspirational opening stint from a determined Mowle however saw the experience Buurman clambering into the cockpit with his Mercedes already on the podium after Phil Keen dropped back with a puncture – setting up a magnificent late-race scrap between Buurman and three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Darren Turner‘s #99 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin for second in GT3.
Despite intense pressure from the Dutchman in the closing corners, Turner staved off the charging Mercedes threat as ERC Sport settled for a maiden podium on their series debut – leaving Buurman beaming after a successful start to the team’s 2018 campaign.
“It’s a great way to start the season – qualifying didn’t go completely to plan so we ended up starting ninth, but Lee did a really good job and grabbed some places in the opening laps to bring the car up to fifth,” Buurman said.
“The team did a great job in the pits and we managed to jump the Bentley to move up into fourth, then with some fast laps we closed in on the Turner Aston Martin.
“It was quite tricky with all the traffic out there, and obviously the track is quite tight so every time you think there’s a chance to overtake there’s more traffic – it’s pretty easy to block and difficult to pass.
“We were side-by-side going into the last corner, but he ran me off the track so I had to give up the fight – third is not bad though for our first race.”
Despite being faced with the immense challenge of tackling the tight and twisty Oulton Park circuit without any prior wet weather testing, Buurman insisted that his measured approach to tackling the torrid conditions was the key to his successful chase-down of Turner’s second-placed Aston Martin.
“We had quite a good balance in the car, but in the end it’s difficult going into the race without any real practice in the wet.
“It’s important that you find the right braking points, because if you go over the limit, then you’ll be off the track so it’s all about finding that limit and I think I managed to do that quite well.”
Having already topped last year’s sole Mercedes squad AMD Tuning‘s 2017 rostrum return, the 31-year-old factory ace showered praise on his new team, and hopes spending less time tweaking the car will allow him to focus further on extracting the potential from exciting AM partner Mowle.
“We didn’t have too many tests with the car in pre-season, but being a works AMG driver means that I’ve driven this car quite a lot so I’m familiar with it. Most teams have their own individual setups so it’s a bit different to me this year from that point of view, but ERC Sport have a great setup for the English tracks and it’s worked really well so far.
“If you have a good setup, it really helps because then you can just focus on driving and making each other go quicker. It lets you work more with your AM to see where there’s room for improvement rather than having to worry about the car, so we’re excited to see what we can do in the next few races.”