Reigning Blancpain GT Series champion Maxi Buhk says increased competition will make winning a second consecutive title this year a difficult task, but he still thinks it is possible.
The 24-year-old German won the championship upon his return to Mercedes-AMG last season, and staying with his familiar HTP Motorsport he has hopes to repeat his success this year.
“This is always the goal whenever I enter a championship or race, that I want to win it,” he told Sportscar365. “It would be nice to continue with the success that we’ve had in the past but it will not be easy.”
Buhk and his new co-driver Franck Perera won both the Sprint Cup races at Misano to start the season off strongly, but the No. 84 Mercedes hasn’t been to the top of the podium since.
“After Misano, even though we had a double win, was when the really hard work started because the others aren’t sleeping,” he said.
“They’re making progress on their setups as well, and pit stops are getting better for everybody.”
The main competition so far has come from Grasser Racing Team drivers Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart and Andrea Caldarelli.
The No. 63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 has won every other race so far, with Endurance Cup victories at Monza and Silverstone, and both Sprint Cup wins at Brands Hatch.
A battle for the lead between Buhk and Engelhart in the final laps of the Silverstone race has been the best example so far of the two teams’ rivalry, and Buhk has high praise for his opponents.
“Normally they are fast everywhere,” he said. “In Misano they were on pole, even though it wasn’t the Grasser car, and then [they were quick] at Monza.
“To be honest, Bortolotti is quick at every circuit. They are always quick and although they have had some bad luck in the past, for me they are one of the strongest competitors in the field.”
However, it hasn’t only been tough competition that has hampered Buhk’s chances so far in the season.
An unbalanced setup made the Mercedes more challenging around the corners at Monza and Brands Hatch, Buhk explained.
“We were struggling a bit at Monza and Brands Hatch with the balance of the car, but now we are back where we started the season and we all feel confident in the car and ready to push,” he said.
“[At Silverstone, the car felt] close to how it did at Misano, and much better than at Brands Hatch and Monza.
“We were struggling a bit there with the rear, having too much entry oversteer. Overall we all feel better now in the car and we can see it on the timing screen.”
Furthermore, a puncture at Brands Hatch further damaged the team’s chances of taking maximum points from the second Sprint Cup weekend.
Overall I think we had a good weekend and the pace to maybe be on the podium,” Buhk said. “This is racing though, and we had a puncture.
“There was a lot of debris on the track and sometimes you have bad luck and hit the debris, and we got a hole in the tire. We checked the tire afterwards and it was like somebody stuck a needle through it.
“It wasn’t an issue from Pirelli, or from our side with the setup or the pressures, it was just bad luck. It was good that we could still score some points, which will be important at the end of the season.”
Nevertheless, an improved showing at Silverstone, which saw the Mercedes come within four-tenths of the Lamborghini after three hours, has put Buhk and HTP into a better mood as the season comes towards its halfway point.
While the Lamborghini has had the better start to the season, Buhk is only 12 points behind in the standings, so a second championship for is still all to play for.
“It will be closer and closer in every race, but we’re looking at ourselves and trying to work as hard as we can, and then we will see where we end up,” he said.