A strong performance from Harold Primat and his HTP Motorsport team-mates helped the crew fight back from a low-key qualifying session to finish an encouraging fifth overall in the opening round of this year’s Blancpain Endurance Series at Monza last weekend (April 12/13).
The Pro Cup-entered #84 Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 had lined up only 10th following Saturday’s tight qualifying session at the high-speed Italian venue, but charged back through the field to score a strong points haul during Sunday’s three-hour race.
Having picked up a position soon after the start Nico Verdonck spent much of the opening stint running nose-to-tail with the gaggle of cars in the bottom half of the top 10, before pitting after the first hour to hand over to Primat.
So close was the on-track battle that quick work from HTP’s mechanics was enough to vault the car up the order to fourth once everyone had completed their first round of stops. And although that would soon become fifth while Primat got back up to speed, the Swiss’ pace thereafter was not only comparable with the front-runners ahead but also enough to remain comfortably clear of his pursuers.
Reigning champion Maximilian Buhk subsequently reeled off the final hour without drama to come home fifth with the highest placed Mercedes SLS.
“It’s a solid performance for the first race of the season,” said Primat. “Spending so much of the first hour bottled up in the pack allowed the guys ahead to break clear, so we were never really in the hunt for a podium after that. Fifth was probably the maximum we could have hoped to achieve, and a good return after qualifying 10th. When you also consider we were the best-placed Mercedes SLS by some distance it’s a pretty satisfactory result.
“Monza is a very fast circuit, which perhaps didn’t play to our strengths. We know there are others where we should have a better chance, but the team is continuously working to see what more we can achieve.
“The car felt good all weekend and, as always, the team did a great job, especially at the first pit-stop to get me out ahead of the fight Nico had been previously caught up in. Both he and Maxi were fantastic so there’s lots of positives we can take with us to the next race.”
Round two of this season’s Blancpain Endurance Series takes place at Silverstone on May 24/25.