Maxi Buhk held off Laurens Vanthoor for victory in Sunday’s Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup round at Silverstone, retaking the overall Blancpain GT championship lead and giving HTP Motorsport its first Endurance win of the season.
After chasing the No. 58 Garage 59 McLaren for victory at Monza, the roles were reversed today, with Buhk being the one withstanding the pressure in the final hour.
The former Endurance and reigning Sprint champion crossed the line just 0.963 seconds ahead of Vanthoor’s No. 1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS, sharing the top honors with Jazeman Jafaar and Dominik Baumann.
The win came despite a change in the Balance of Performance, which saw the Mercedes-AMG GT3 receive an additional 25kg compared to Misano (Type C track).
While the front-row starting No. 16 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Mirko Bortolotti and No. 74 ISR Audi R8 LMS of Franck Perera led the field in the opening hour, Baumann overtook Maxime Martin’s No. 99 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 for third place, where the HTP Mercedes remained within striking distance of the leaders.
The early-stopping No.1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 LMS leapfrogged from seventh to second in the first round of pitstops, the WRT crew performing a 69-seconds stop and thus staying clear of the prohibited pitstop range of 70-90 seconds.
With all of his rivals spending more than 90 seconds in the pitlane, Dries Vanthoor soon found himself underneath the rear wing of the leading No. 16 Grasser Lamborghini, now in the hands of Rolf Ineichen.
Ten minutes into his stint, the youngest of the Vanthoor brothers passed Ineichen’s Lamborghini for the lead, with Jazeman Jafaar’s No. 84 HTP Mercedes following him through to move up to second.
On the next lap Jafaar made use of traffic to find a way past Dries Vanthoor, the Malaysian driver immediately building up a five-second lead he maintained until the second round of pitstops.
With Maxi Buhk and Laurens Vanthoor simultaneously taking over the wheel of the No. 84 HTP Mercedes and No. 1 WRT Audi respectively, the gap between both Blancpain stalwarts was reduced to 2.5 seconds with 60 minutes still on the clock.
Buhk managed to extend the gap back to five seconds, but a messy safety car intervention bunched up the field 40 minutes from the end.
Vanthoor managed to keep Buhk honest until the end, but had to settle for second.
“I had a good stint,” said Buhk. “I was pushing to keep the distance, but even after the safety car I could still pull a gap.”
“I tried all I could, maybe even too much,” Vanthoor admitted afterwards. “He was just a bit quicker. It’s a shame not everybody respected blue flags.”
Despite Bortolotti leading the field in the first hour and the safety car erasing the time lost by Rolf Ineichen’s middle stint, Jeroen Bleekemolen couldn’t keep up with the two leaders in the No. 16 GRT Lamborghini and finished 23 seconds down in third.
The No. 99 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 of Maxime Martin, Alexander Sims and Philip Eng spent most of the race in fifth, but Eng secured fourth in the end by overtaking Indy Dontje’s No. 85 HTP Mercedes when it got held up by the lapped No. 19 GRT Lamborghini of Andrea Piccini.
Despite passing Gregory Guilvert’s No. 26 Saintéloc Audi for sixth position in the final laps, Rob Bell couldn’t hang on to the overall Blancpain GT points’ lead.
The McLaren factory driver who pilots the No. 58 Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3 together with Côme Ledogar and Shane Van Gisbergen now trails Buhk and Baumann by 13 points, while the gap is only 11 points in the Endurance Cup.
Bentley Team M-Sport experienced a difficult weekend at its home track, with the No. 8 Continental GT3 losing more than ten laps early on with a broken powersteering hose.
The sister No. 7 car of Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Vincent Abril fell back from P5 to P18 after being tapped into a spin by the HTP Mercedes of Clemens Schmid in the opening laps, but managed to fight back to a P8.
The battle in the Pro Am Cup went down to the wire. While Perera was battling for the overall lead in the opening hour, the No. 74 ISR Audi fell back to third in the hands of Philippe Giauque.
Helped by the safety car, Maro Engel’s No. 56 Black Falcon Mercedes could overtake the ISR Audi and Oman Racing Aston Martin V12 Vantagein the final lap to take Pro-Am Cup honors.
Victory in the Am Cup went to the No. 488 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 of Pierre Ehret and Stef Vancampenhoudt.