The HTP Motorsport team had to fight back from an early setback in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hours to leave Australia with a second place to start their season.
The team, consisting of Harold Primat, Thomas Jaeger and Maximilian Buhk had fought for a suitable set-up on the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 for the Mount Panorama Circuit, competing against teams and drivers more familiar with one of the world’s most challenging circuits.
Their build-up to the race further complicated by a serious accident in practice. The squad contemplated withdrawing from the event – as other leading teams did after their own crashes – but instead opted to work through the night in order to repair the car for Saturday’s qualifying session, from which h the team took the eleventh fastest time, a 2:06.8470.
At the start of the race Jaeger was able to move up the order – avoiding incidents that delayed, or took out altogether, other Class A entrants. The first major moment for the team was when Jaeger clashed with the Nissan GT-R at Forrest’s Elbow. The after effects of the slight collision forced the team into the pits for repairs, losing two laps to the leaders in the process.
Through the rest of the race the team regained time and places as other teams experienced problems of their own. Incredibly, given the early issues, the team took the lead of the race in the final hour of the race only for another complication to derail their victory chances.
Buhk brought the car in for what should have been a regulation final stop of the race, only for the team to notice extraordinary wear on the front brake pads which needed to be replaced for the final stint.
The longer stop dropped the team from the lead to third place, from where Buhk retook second place before a final safety car period lined him up on the rear of Craig Lowndes’ Ferrari 458 in a battle for the lead of the race. Aided by the superior straight line speed of, and the brand new brakes on the HTP Merc compared to the worn set on the Ferrari Buhk set about retaking the lead in the closing minutes. However, Bathurst legend Lowndes defended his position, keeping Buhk behind by just 0.4 at the end of the 296th and final lap in the 12 hours.
“What an amazing story!” reflected Primat. “Perhaps even the craziest of my entire racing career. At first we weren’t happy with the car’s set-up and then suffered a heavy accident. Fortunately, the HTP Motorsport mechanics did a fantastic job and worked very hard to have the car up and running on Saturday. I’d like to extend them my warmest thanks.
“Despite the odds being stacked against us we never gave up and kept on fighting until the very end. During my second stint the team asked me to stay out a little longer so we could un-lap ourselves. I drove well through the traffic before handing the car over to Maximilian, who stormed to the finish despite encountering brake pad issues.”