Maxi Buhk’s No. 84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 grabbed pole for the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup opener at Monza.
In a hard-fought Q3 session, the reigning Sprint Cup champion took the top spot five minutes from the end, beating Alex Buncombe in the No. 23 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 by a mere 0.016s.
“It was incredibly hard,” said Buhk. “The team gave me a good slot to go on track I was lucky to get a couple of clear laps in a row.
“It’s so tight at the front with so many manufactures. I was not expecting it, as Ferrari was quick all weekend.”
Meanwhile Buncombe was also shocked to see the Nissan so far up front. “Top-20 was goal. I’m massively surprised by P2,” he said.
“We lost a bit of straight line speed, but the guys worked hard to improve the Nissan chassis.”
Giancarlo Fisichella posted the third quickest time in the No. 53 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 (+0.067s), claiming pole in the Pro-Am class, 0.032s in front of the Scuderia Praha Ferrari 488 GT3.
Clemens Schmidt qualified the second HTP Mercedes in fifth, while Maxime Soulet brought the No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 up to sixth in the dying minutes.
Laurens Vanthoor proved Audi was also in the mix and will start 7th on the grid with the No. 1 WRT Audi R8 LMS (+0.137s), although the Belgian did spin in the Parabolica on his final lap.
No fewer than 31 cars — more than half the field — were within 1 second of Buhk’s time.
Track conditions were good despite some rain overnight, which made for some slippery the curbstones in some places.
There were no red flags, nor any notable incidents during the session.
The race gets underway at 3 p.m. local time, with a slight possibility of rain is forecasted.