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Buhk: “In The End it Was a Decision From My Heart”

Maxi Buhk on returning to Mercedes for 2016 Blancpain GT Series…

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Maxi Buhk feels he’s surrounded by the best circumstances, as the multiple-time Blancpain GT Series champion sets his sights on another set of titles this season.

After scoring the Blancpain Sprint Series title with Bentley Team HTP and showing some good results in a factory Continental GT3 in the Endurance Series, Buhk was already announced as a Bentley factory driver at the end of last season.

However, as HTP Motorsport decided to drop the Continental GT3 after only a single season, the 23-year-old German moved back to Mercedes-AMG, staying faithful to HTP for a fifth consecutive season.

“I had two possibilities at the end of last season: stay with HTP Motorsport or take the offer from Bentley,” Buhk told Sportscar365.

“In the end it was a decision from my heart, what I felt was the best for me. I wanted to continue the success story I had with HTP and I don’t think it was a bad call.”

Besides his 10-round Blancpain GT program, Buhk also gained the status of official AMG driver, joining HTP’s assault on the Nürburgring 24.

“I don’t care so much about the status I have, whether I’m a factory driver or not… I just care about the all-around package and whether I’m feeling comfortable in my surroundings,” he said.

Switching back form the big Continental GT3, the German says the new Mercedes-AMG feels like coming home, despite the car being significantly different from the SLS AMG GT3 that brought him so many successes.

“The Mercedes-AMG is not particularly better suited to my driving style, but it’s more easy to drive,” he said.

“You can get closer to the limit without the car giving you a hard time for pushing too much and the aerodynamics are pretty good.

“I like the driver comfort more in the Mercedes because you can adjust the pedals and the steering; it’s closer to a DTM or formula car.

“Compared to the SLS, the front handles better now. The steering is more precise and you can feel the shorter wheelbase, but the rest was more or less fine-tuning the good things from the SLS.”

Buhk and Dominik Baumann were immediately on the pace at the Misano Sprint Cup opener at Misano two weeks ago, pushing Laurens Vanthoor’s WRT Audi R8 LMS right until the finish.

“We’re still learning the car, how to find a good setup for new tires as well as used tires for the race distance,” Buhk said.

“We’re getting there. It’s looking very positive for the moment. Testing went well and there’s still some potential to be unlocked.

“With the shorter wheelbase, I think there are more tracks that we can add to the list of tracks where we can be strong.

“Misano was a good track for the AMG GT3. We should be strong as well at Spa, Brands Hatch,… Monza on the other hand will be a different story.”

Not only the lure of HTP played a role in his off-season decision, but the fact that he would be reunited with Baumann, with whom he claimed the 2012 European FIA GT3 title, was a major selling point to stay put.

“We had a good relationship already in the European championship when we drove together, but then he went to BMW while I stayed with HTP and Mercedes” Buhk said.

“During all those year we kept a good relationship and we also became friends off the track.

“He proved over the years he’s one of the fastest GT drivers around, even when he was just driving ADAC GT Masters.”

Their extra Blancpain Endurance teammate is no stranger either, as Jazeman Jafaar helped him to fifth in the 2014 Total 24 Hours of Spa.

“I was surprised back in 2014, he was right on the pace and he didn’t need a lot of time to adapt to the car,” Buhk said.

“He was on the pace already in Misano and he’s definitely someone who will enable use to compete for a win or a good result in Endurance.”

Just like almost every other driver, Buhk stressed consistency will be key this season, as the overall level has risen while there are fewer races to make up for mistakes.

“When you can finish all the Main Races in the top five or eight, then I think at the last race in Barcelona there will be at least six or seven cars that can fight for the championship.”

Buhk unfortunately lost out on both the overall Blancpain GT and Sprint title back in 2014, but his former teammate Maxi Götz still secured the Sprint crown and went on to race for Mercedes in DTM.

While Buhk confirmed the idea of racing in DTM has crossed his mind in the past, he’s now firmly focused on collecting as much GT3 silverware as possible.

“The last couple of years I’ve been talking to some of my colleagues in the AMG driver pool about looking at DTM, but for the next three to four years the GT3 platform is the way to go.

“I’m feeling well in the GT3 world and I’m not really looking at DTM at the moment.”

Vincent Wouters (@VinceWouters) is a Belgium-based sports car racing reporter, providing coverage primarily of the Blancpain GT Series.

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