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The start of the 2019 European Championship is just a few short weeks away, meaning teams and drivers alike will be preparing flights, rental cars and hotel accommodation for a five-round endurance racing program that covers six months and five different countries.
 
But just imagine, for a second, that money and time was no object. That, rather than flying between races, teams and drivers drove from event-to-event instead. What would that actually involve?  



29 – 30 March 2019 – Hankook 12H MUGELLO

Circuit length: 5.245km
Corners: 15
24H SERIES events hosted (incl. 2019): 5 


Back on the 24H SERIES calendar, and opening the European season for the fifth time in six years, it’s not hard to see why the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello has proven so popular with teams, drivers and fans alike over the years. After a scintillating – and quick! – run down the 1.141km start-finish straight, drivers are met with the slowest of the circuit’s three anchor-straining hairpins – San Donato – and a tight and technical uphill climb that soon feeds into the fast and flowing double left at Arrabiatta, a challenge for even the most skilled racers. Through Correntaio and the quick left-right flick that is Biondetti (in 4th or 5th gear), there’s just the agonizingly long, left-handed Bocine to nail before the field is hurtling past the pits once again.
 
It’s a layout unchanged since 1974, has stood MotoGP is good stead since 1991, and it’s almost impossible to ignore the glorious the thunderous V8 soundtrack echoing across the neighbouring Tuscan countryside.


31 March – From Mugello to Spa-Francorchamps

Countries visited: Italy, Switzerland, France (perhaps), Germany, and Belgium
Distance travelled: 1,081km (quickest), or 1,175km (scenic)
Estimated time: 11 hours 40 minutes 


With stage one of the 2019 European Championship complete, and a renaissance-sating tour of Florence’s museums also in the bag, the first stint of our epic grand tour takes us through Bologna, wherein you’ll find not only the oldest university in the world but also the Museo dedicated to everyone’s favourite Raging Bull. From there, heading north, we tip-toe around ‘elegant’ Milan heading 250km north towards the stunning views awaiting travellers at Lake Lucerne and, a couple of hours later, the Rhine River in Basel. En-route, Luxembourg is just a stone’s throw away, and if you opt for the slightly ‘more scenic’ 1,175km route, you can take in Liechtenstein too. Bet you didn’t know that, at one point, you could actually ‘hire’ the entire country for $70,000 per night…
 
This half-day journey takes us through Italy, Switzerland, France and Germany before we hit the Belgian border. If you wish to skip France altogether though (don’t panic, we’ll be back later in the year) and add 45m to your trip, you can also check out Rhine Falls just outside Zurich in Switzerland, the largest falls in Europe, just FYI. Add a further 30m on top of that if you want to make a quick stop in Stuttgart, home of the vaunted Porsche Museum. Once into Belgium via Steinebrück, point the compass towards Stavelot (sound familiar?), and you’re just half an hour from one of the most infamous race circuits in the world.


19-20 April – Hankook 12H SPA

Circuit length: 7.004km
Corners: 19
24H SERIES events hosted (incl. 2019): 3 


A Formula 1 favourite, in any form, almost continuously from 1950, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps can trace its lineage all the way back to 1922, a time when gentlemen with white ascots and pencil-thin moustaches muscled Alfa Romeo 6Cs and Bugatti Type 44s more than 14km from Raidillon to La Carrière via Malmedy. Since 1979 though, Spa’s signature corner has been the notorious Eau Rouge, the uphill left-right-left climb towards the cylinder-buckling and tree-lined Kemmel Straight and Les Combes, the latter a true test of mettle for the last of the late-brakers. At the mercy of Spa’s legendary changeable weather through Pouhon, Campus and Stavelot, speed once again starts to build as the field screams uphill through the left-handed Blanchimont before the anchors are thrown out one last time for the at-one-time-named Bus Stop Chicane. Unarguably a circuit like none other that, for the first time in 2019, does not bring the 24H SERIES European Championship to a close.


21 April: From Spa-Francorchamps to Brno

Countries visited: Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic
Distance travelled: 975km (quickest, ish), or 1,054km (scenic)
Estimated time: 9 hours 50 minutes 


Let’s be honest. Yes, you could take the extended, more Northerly route through Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Saxony via Dusseldorf (Auf Wiedersehen, Pet), Kassel (city of the Brothers Grimm) and Dresden (birth place of toothpaste, would you believe) on the way to Brno. But chances are, you won’t.
 
Chances are you’ll be heading due East from Spa-Francorchamps, taking in Frankfurt’s picturesque Römerberg ‘old town’ square, drinking a glass of ‘Schoppen’ on the Alte Mainbrücke in Würzburg (hey, it’s tradition) and checking out, let’s just say, the ‘historically significant’, town of Nuremberg during the 10-hour, 985km journey to the Automotodrom Brno in the Czech Republic. Why? Because to get there, you have to go via the Nürburgring, and we can’t imagine any of you are going to pass up the chance to drive a lap of the most notorious race circuit on the planet.
 
Just make sure there’s enough rubber left on the tyres of your rent-a-car to get you as far as the graffiti-laden ‘John Lennon Wall’ in Prague, and the 190km sprint thereafter to the Automotodrom Brno circuit itself. If you need another reason to take the low road, how about a quick stop at Pilsen? Apparently they’ve been known worldwide for their beer since 1842…


24-25 May: Hankook 12H BRNO

Circuit length: 5.403km
Corners: 14
24H SERIES events hosted (incl. 2019): 3 


Another European road course that’s seen some significant changes over the last nine decades. The first Masaryk Grand Prix in 1903 for instance, named in homage to the first President of Czechoslovakia, ran an exhausting, anti-clockwise loop of 29km, per lap, through the hills and villages of Kohoutovice and Žebětín, kinking its way to Ostrovačice before a terrifyingly fast run back to Bosonohy.
 
Today, the 5.403km Automotodrom Brno sits within the confines of the old circuit itself, barely 20 minutes from the city centre itself, and starts with a short accelerative burst into the long, LONG right-handed turn one. Another quick blast at full throttle and quick-succession left-right brings the field onto, effectively, the short back straight and the circuit’s highest point. Flanked by huge grass embankments, the circuit then begins to snake its way back down into the valley, a stunning copse of spruce trees accompanying the field through two more, mid-speed right-left complexes – and another rapid burst of acceleration in-between – before the field bursts back onto the main-start finish straight.
 
Pay close attention as you leave the circuit too after the race, as the old circuit’s now abandoned pit buildings remain a notable tourist attraction.


26 May: From Brno to Portimão

Countries visited: Czech Republic, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal
Estimated distance travelled: 3,158km (‘quickest’)
Estimated time: 29-30 hours 


Three races down with two to go, we now take on the longest part of our trans-European journey, one that takes in five countries, more than 3,000km and over a full day of driving (just as well there’s a month break in-between the Hankook 12H BRNO and the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO). Unless you’re a true glutton for punishment, you’ll want to find a couple of places to stop on the way.
 
Heading West out of the Czech Republic and back into Bavaria – cue more Pilsner – chances are, and traffic permitting, you’ll reach Heidelberg in just under seven hours, leaving you plenty of time to be mocked by a monkey on the Alte Brücke. No, seriously. From there, it’s just another until you hit Baden Baden, the Black Forest and, more significantly, a stunning world of scots pine-enveloped driving roads. Again, try to be kind to your tyres and brake discs, as there’s still 90 minutes of driving left until you hit the Burgundy border.
 
Minus a quick stop at Dijon – maybe pay a visit to the historic city centre and the 3rd century Palais des Ducs before stocking up on mustard – your next port of call will surely be the Clermont-Ferrand, where you’ll find the ‘forgotten Grand Prix circuit’ that hosted France’s Formula 1 race four times in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. For which, incidentally, former 24H SERIES class winner Vincent Radermecker holds the track record.
 
Maybe take a well-deserved break – give or take a two-hour detour – and check out Lyon’s Traboules passageways, as it’s a long drive south-west to Bordeaux. Still, they’ll be a decent glass of red waiting for you upon your arrival, we’re guessing…
 
After a majestic drive through the Landes de Gascogne Natural Regional Park, you’ll reach the French-Spanish border. By the way, San Sebastián’s old city centre is famous for having the having the highest concentration of bars in the world, while Bilbao a mere 70 minutes further West is worth a visit for any Guggenheim enthusiasts. From here, there’s still almost half a day of driving to be done, said odyssey likely to take in the culinary-loving Salamanca before the final border crossing into Portugal.
 
We’re now on the home stretch, and after a quick tour of the Torre de Belém overlooking the Tagus River in Lisbon, the final 290km drive takes us through the beautiful Setúbal and Beja regions to the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, situated less than half an hour from Portimão and Atlantic-bordering Lagos. After a 30-hour-plus road trip, we’re hoping teams and drivers have saved enough energy for the first 24-hour race of the European season.


5-6-7 July: Hankook 24H PORTIMAO

Circuit length: 4.699km
Corners: 16
24H SERIES events hosted (incl. 2019): 3 


More so than arguably any other circuit on this year’s European Championship schedule, the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve is a roller-coaster of elevation. Indeed, down the main start-finish straight, drivers both climb and fall before diving into the mid-speed first corner. Make sure you’ve lined yourself for the tight, right-handed ‘Lagos’ or you’ll be in a world of trouble. Uphill and through turn five, you’re back on the power – past the VIP Tower – down, quite literally, into Torre Vip, a sharp, left-handed hairpin.
 
Climbing once again, and through the fast, and blind, left-hander, you’re soon standing on the middle pedal again heading into Samsung, a tight, right hander for which you’ll want to pin yourself to the apex as you crest the hill and begin accelerating towards the mid-speed Craig Jones and the wide, WIDE entry line for Portimão. Calm your, presumably, rattled nerves, as the tight and technical end of sector two eventually throws you back onto the main straight via the gruellingly fast Galf left-hander. Dare you keep the throttle pinned this time?
 

8 July: From Portimão to Barcelona

Countries visited: Portugal and Spain
Estimated distance travelled: 1,284km (quickest), or 1,422 (scenic)
Estimated time: 12 hours 30 minutes 


And so, with 24 full hours of racing barely completed, we enter the final stage of our European road trip. After, hopefully, a good night’s sleep, destination Barcelona takes us east, past Portimão and through the border crossing at Isla Christina (one of Andalucia’s most important fishing ports, by the by) into Spain. After a mere 138km to Seville – peanuts, given the 5,500km we’ve already travelled – our weary travellers will be met with the birthplace of Flamenco dancing (make sure your ruffled, satin shirts are properly ironed) and the Real Alcazar, one of Europe’s oldest palaces. Continue East through Córdoba, at the foot of Morena Mountains, and eventually – if you decided against the two-hour, 175km detour to Madrid, though we wouldn’t discourage that – you’ll eventually hit Valencia, home of the Holy Grail, the La Tomatina tomato fight festival, and, of course, the former home of the Formula 1 European Grand Prix, parts of which you can still drive.
 
And with that, the final four hours of our journey follow (well, near enough) the Balearic Sea through Castellón de la Plana and Tarragona. Journey’s end finally arrives just half an hour outside Barcelona’s city centre. Be sure to check out Antonio Gaudí’s Sagrada Família and La Rambla before checking into your pit garage.


30 August – 1 September: Hankook 24H BARCELONA

Circuit length: 4.655km
Corners: 16
24H SERIES events hosted (incl. 2019): 9


The home of the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix since 1991, and closing in on its fourth decade on the vaunted 4.655km Grand Prix layout – okay, fine, the first two editions in ’98 and ’99 took place on the shorter National Circuit – the 21st edition of the 24H BARCELONA starts with a short sprint into the first tight and complex left-right chicane before feeding into the increasingly fast right-handed run through turn 3. Slam on the brakes for Repsol – watch out for snap oversteer – and regain just enough speed to line yourself up for the equally mid-speed turn five. Drop down into the infield before the climb begins back through the quick-flick left-right turn 7/8 chicane.
 
One final mid-speed right-hander at Campsa, and soon you’re working your way back through the gears down the back straight and heading into the tight, off-camber La Caixa. Bank left than right through the seemingly unending Banc Sabadell before nosing your way into the final chicane. If you want to make the most of your acceleration through New Holland and back onto the main straight, make sure you clout the apex. 


Mugello to Spa-Francorchamps to Brno to Portimão to Barcelona

Countries visited: Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Spain and Portugal
Estimated distance travelled: 6,442km (at least)
Estimated time: 62 hours (at least) 


So. Who’s up for a road trip?

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