Time penalties deny HTP Motorsport top-five result.
Harold Primat marked his Nurburgring 24 Hours debut for HTP Motorsport with a fine top-10 result at the Nordschleife’s blue riband event last weekend (June 19-22).
The Geneva-based driver – alongside team-mates Maximilian Gotz, Kenneth Heyer and Roland Rehfeld – guided their Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 to seventh overall in the fastest-ever running of ADAC’s flagship event held at the daunting 25km-long ‘Green Hell’.
Confidence was high following top-10 performances during Qualifying 1 and 2, despite the quartet initially struggling to find a compromise on set-up. However, even with experienced Mercedes driver Gotz at the wheel, the German squad could only qualify 21st in an extremely tight single-lap top-30 shootout.
Nevertheless, Primat remained confident that a strong result was possible ahead of the twice-around-the-clock epic.
“We struggled slightly in practice despite running a similar set-up to the one we used for April’s Qualifying Race,” admitted Primat. “However, the team ultimately did a fantastic job of optimising the car for each of us, even though qualifying was slightly disappointing.
“The first two hours were extremely manic, although Maximilian [Gotz] did a brilliant job of staying composed while others ran into problems. After everything had calmed down we started to get into the groove. The car felt great to drive.”
HTP Motorsport’s promising start saw them battling the factory Aston Martin and BMW squads when Harold took the wheel for the first time as darkness fell. However, two time penalties for failing to observe yellow flags during the shortest night of summer cost them eight-and-a-half minutes, dropping Primat out of the battle for fifth place when he resumed driving duties at 07:30 local time.
Indeed, taking the wheel at dusk inevitably causes problems unique to any 24-hour race: “Glare from the setting sun affected visibility to the point where I was blinded in a lot of corners,” explained Harold. “However, it’s all part of learning and re-adjusting.”
Despite being unable to recover the lap lost in their battle for fifth before Harold began his fourth and final stint early on Sunday afternoon, the Geneva-based driver was content with the performance and reliability shown throughout Germany’s endurance classic.
“I certainly think fifth was possible without the two penalties. It’s unfortunate because it’s always tricky to spot the flags on a circuit of this nature, although we can take comfort from our pace in comparison to the Vantage and Z4 GT3 ahead.
“Overall, the four of us worked extremely well together, as did the entire team,” beamed Primat. “Our pit-stops were extremely smooth and I’m happy considering that we mostly kept out of trouble, while maintaining a competitive pace throughout, so to come away with seventh is a strong result. On a circuit like this you have to gradually build up to the limit, although I’m satisfied with how I’ve improved. Now I’m just looking forward to a long rest!”
Not that Primat will have too much time to recover, for his attention now turns to round three of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Paul Ricard this weekend when the Swiss once again partners Nico Verdonck and Bernd Schneider in HTP Motorsport’s #84 SLS AMG GT3 Pro Cup entry.