Maxi Buhk heads into the Blancpain GT Series finale at Barcelona on the verge of a little piece of history. He told James Newbold all about it.
When a fresh from the car Maxi Buhk headed over to congratulate the newly-crowned Blancpain Endurance Cup champions Garage 59 at the Nürburgring, he did so knowing that whilst HTP Motorsport had lost the battle, they could still win the war.
Despite the agony of losing out on the Endurance title to Rob Bell, Come Ledogar and Shane van Gisbergen by a single point, Buhk and team-mate Dominik Baumann head to the final Sprint Cup meeting at Barcelona with five points in hand over Bell in the overall Blancpain GT Series standings, while retaining a chance at snatching the Sprint title from Enzo Ide if the Belgian has an off-colour weekend.
— Racing GT (@RacingGT) September 18, 2016
Still only 23 years old, Buhk has enjoyed a remarkable spell of success in his short time in GT racing. After becoming the FIA GT3 champion with Baumann in 2012, he won the Blancpain Endurance title the following year despite only entering three races, winning two – the Spa 24 Hours and Nurburgring 1000km. In 2014, he helped team-mate Maxi Götz to the Blancpain Sprint title, before winning it himself in 2015 during HTP’s brief spell as a Bentley partner team, alongside Vincent Abril.
Should Buhk complete the set by winning the overall crown this weekend, he would become only the second man ever to do so after Laurens Vanthoor (who won the FIA GT title in 2013), a fact which has not escaped his attention.
“At the end it would also be nice if we can maybe win the Sprint, but the overall is for me a bit more attractive because it shows everybody that you have been very consistent over the whole year, that you have been there and had the pace at every race,” he said.
“Last year I remember Robin [Frijns] was quite disappointed to just win overall and not the Sprint, but for me it’s the other way around – you have ten rounds of endurance and sprint, and if you are consistently there, then you can win overall.
“When I look back at where I came from in 2012, it hasn’t been a long way since, but already in this short period of time to have achieved so much is very satisfying. It’s a big thing to win everything there is – it’s really cool and it gives me even more motivation for the next years to repeat the success we had in previous years.”
Reflecting on the team’s Nürburgring heartache, Buhk believes that fourth was the maximum result possible on the day and argues that the points lost to a gearbox problem at Paul Ricard and the engine mapping shenanigans at Spa were far ultimately more significant in shaping the course of the championship.
“We were happy with the weekend and how it went because the circumstances in qualifying could have played a role for us as well – we could have been P35 or something, but it was just a bit of luck that we ended up P4,” he said. “In the race we did everything we could, but we didn’t have the pace to fight with the Lambo, the Audi and the Nissan.
We were close but in the end we took enough points 2 be able 2 win both team & driver title in Barcelona! Thanks 2 the team 4 a great job!
— Maximilian Buhk (@MaxiBuhk) September 18, 2016
“I don’t think we lost the Endurance championship there, because it was the maximum we could do. As I said to Dominik and Jazeman [Jaafar], we shouldn’t be disappointed about how the weekend went – maybe we should analyse where we lost other points in previous races.
“We were fighting with McLaren whole year and in the end when you don’t win the championship, even if it’s only one point, for sure it’s disappointing, but they did a great job so I think you should honour the work they did.”
Buhk and Baumann gave their Sprint Cup title hopes a leg-up by capitalising on the lap one tangle between Ide and Tristan Vautier’s AKKA Mercedes to win in Hungary, but he is not taking much comfort from the absence of Ide’s season-long co-driver Christopher Mies, WRT having moved swiftly to replace him with Robin Frijns.
“Whether it is a new pairing or not, both of them know the car, which is already 95% of the challenge that you don’t have to figure out,” Buhk points out. “Christopher has been absolutely stunning, he is always there in qualifying and for me he is the strongest Audi driver this year, but it’s maybe not a disadvantage for Enzo because Robin is as we know one of the fastest guys in the field.
“In the end we can’t be too concerned about that, we just have to focus on our performance. We have much more to win than we can lose, but in the end we can as well travel back home with nothing in the pocket, so we just try to do a good job, make no mistakes and then we’ll see.”
As at Brands Hatch, both the qualifying race and the feature will be held on Sunday. For a full timetable and entry list, visit the Blancpain GT Series website here.