Maximilian Buhk proved that the ghost of the second place wasn’t with him on British lands, as his job along with those of Dominik Baumann and Jazeman Jaafar brought the first Blancpain GT Endurance Cup for HTP Motorsport win at Silverstone, in another tight race in the endurance side.
The race didn’t start well for the Mercedes side, more specially the No. 57 Black Falcon AMG GT3, which couldn’t get go for the formation lap but then was able to start from the pitlane. On the start of the race, Mirko Bortolotti kept the lead in the No. 16 GRT Lamborghini against the No. 74 ISR Audi and the No. 99 ROWE BMW. In a field of 52 powerful cars, attention is essential or else your car may be collected in a mess, like what happened to the No. 19 GRT Lamborghini, the No. 78 Barwell Lamborghini, the No. 100 Attempto Lamborghini and the No. 23 RJN Nissan.
Clemens Schmid and Guy Smith were having a heated battle for the fifth, and then Schmid went for a gap, there was simply no racing line for the two and the big Bentley boy spun, losing a lot of time and positions.
Soon came the backmarkers in front of the lead pack, most of them due to the incidents in the early stages of the race, and Mirko Bortolotti and Maxime Martin had to deal with them while keeping their competitors behind. Although the No. 16 GRT Lamborghini succeeded, the No. 99 ROWE BMW clearly felt the pressure, and Dominik Baumann capitalized over the BMW M6 misfortune and took the third position. Like the sister No. 84 car, the No. 85 HTP Mercedes took a late brake maneuver to steal the fourth position of the BMW.
With almost 30 minutes of racing the No. 74 ISR Audi was with a close view of the rear of the No. 16 GRT Lamborghini, and Franck Perera was clearly faster than Mirko Brotolotti. The problems to deal with traffic were evident for the Lambo, but the bad situation turned out on their favor again as they opened a more comfortable gap to the ISR R8 LMS.
First hour was gone and there it was the first round of pit stops. The No. 84 & 85 HTP Mercedes made early stops and didn’t have a position change. The No. 16 GRT Lamborghini and the No. 74 ISR Audi opted to stay a little longer and also there wasn’t any position change between the two. Instead, the No. 1 WRT Audi caught everybody in surprise by repeating their good pit strategy from the Brands Hatch race and took second position.
The No. 16 car was in the hands of Dubai 24 Hours winner Rolf Ineichen, and he was trying to keep GT rookie Dries Vanthoor behind him. It took 12 minutes then to the Belgian driver get the overtake into the Lamborghini, and immediately Jazeman Jaafar in the No. 84 HTP Mercedes took second place. Then it was a battle between Jaafar, Vanthoor and the traffic, and after the show of overtakes between the two drivers, Jaafar took the upper hand. When past the half point, Jaafar acted quickly to not get stuck behind the backmarkers like Vanthoor and Ineichen, and this helped him to build a decent advantage.
Debris on track with an hour and 20 minutes brought a full course yellow period, but neither this and the slow restart of the ARC Bratislava Lamborghini seemed to ruin the good moment of Jaafar in the lead, as he still had some decent space to Vanthoor. A few minutes later a mistake in the acceleration ended in spin and a reunion with the barriers for the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, which only resulted in a local yellow flag.
Near the last hour all the top contenders gone to the pits at the same time in order to bring their best pro drivers to the action. Maximilian Buhk returned first to the track in the No. 84 HTP Mercedes, and after him came Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 1 WRT Audi and Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 16 GRT Lamborghini. Now Buhk saw himself in the leading role instead of the pursuit role like it was at Monza and Misano, so it was just a matter of managing the gap to Vanthoor. Buhk was dealing swiftly with the traffic in the first ten minutes after the pit stops, and this wasn’t the same case with Vanthoor, and if Buhk knows how to catch someone, he also knows how to distance himself, so all the cards were in the hand of the German driver with 50 minutes left.
With 45 minutes to go a triple contact left the No. 42 Sport Garage Ferrari with a destroyed left rear corner and stopped near the track, and after 5 minutes the Safety Car joined the track and the situation would turn to the WRT side, as just the No. 19 GRT Lamborghini was separating first and second overall.
Somehow these minutes of Safety Car were the most messy possible. The Safety Car had to wait for the leaders, but there was a train of unsettled drivers between them, so it took three laps to Maximilian Buhk to stay behind it. Then with less than 25 minutes to go, the Safety Car was intended to get into the pits but kept its way into the race track, and by miracle the accelerating cars didn’t create a Le Mans Series-like chaos.
20 minutes remaining and the race was on again, and Vanthoor was in full attack mode into Buhk, as were Indy Dontje and Philip Eng trying to catch Jeroen Bleekemolen for the third place. Buhk on clean air was slightly faster and so he kept the distance, while Bleekemolen counted with the traffic on his side, specially the No. 19 GRT Lamborghini that created a battle between the No. 99 ROWE BMW and the No. 85 HTP Mercedes. Eng overtook Dontje once he needed to take an evasive move to not crash into the Lamborghini ahead of him, and this disturbed his race line.
Vanthoor was catching up little by little, but then in the last minute he wasn’t even able to do better sector times than Buhk. He was still able to bring better times but Buhk saw the checkered 0.9 seconds before Vanthoor, with Bleekemolen finishing in a comfortable third position.
The Pro-Am class winner was also decided in the last corners, as Philippe Giauque let the victory slip from the ISR camp to Maro Engel in the No. 56 Black Falcon Mercedes, along with Miguel Toril and Oliver Morley. The No. 44 Oman Racing Aston Martin finished second while the defeated No. 74 ISR Audi completed the podium.
Rinaldi Racing took Am class honors with a two driver lineup, as Stef Vancampenhoudt and Pierre Ehret won it easily over the No. 87 AKKA-ASP Mercedes and the No. 69 ARC Bratilsava Lamborghini.
Now that the adventure around Italy and Great Britain is over, the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup takes a month away of the tracks to return on June 25th, with the second toughest race of the season, the 1000km of Paul Ricard.
PHOTO: Blancpain GT Series