Remember when… Hankook 24H BARCELONA was last run as a ‘TCE’-only event?

News | August 24, 2023

At the most recent, TCE-only edition of the Hankook 24H BARCELONA in 2017, Spain’s NM Racing Team went head-to-head with TCR entrant Team Bleekemolen for the overall win.


Words – James Gent

Images – Petr Frýba

As the penultimate round of CREVENTIC’s first TCE-only endurance racing season, the 2017 Hankook 24H BARCELONA already had plenty of headline fodder. As well as being a throwback to the event’s touring car roots, it also featured a higher of TCR cars – 18 – on the grid than any other endurance event had managed since the category’s introduction for 2016.


Furthermore, among the TCR entry list was Overall 24H SERIES champion Memac Ogilvy Duel Racing, TCR Teams’ championship leader Monlau Competición, and fellow Barcelona-based Baporo, the latter of whom had once again signed up Laia Sanz and Francesc Gutiérrez on driver detail (page 51). More than enough for the home crowd to get behind. 


Despite Catalunya’s traditional baking mid-afternoon heat threatening havoc, qualifying ran smoothly, with the NM Racing Team (also Barcelona-based) claiming outright pole position with its Ginetta G55, just ahead of the Red SEAT León TCR. Team Bleekemolen, a class winner earlier that year and another TCR title contender, lined up 4th behind CWS' own Ginetta G55. Melvin de Groot later admitted that a faster qualifying time would have been possible, but the Dutch team preferred to bank a fresh set of tyres for the race. It would prove a salient decision. 


When the green flag dropped the following afternoon, neither front row man made a particularly swift start. Red Camel’s Rik Breukers was out-dragged down the main straight by both the CWS Ginetta and, from the third row, EST1 Racing’s Porsche Cayman. Things went from bad to worse as the SEAT, already down to 5th, was punted heavily heading into turn two, contact that would break the front left shock absorber and park Red Camel in the garage for 20 minutes. 


NM Racing’s Nil Montserrat meanwhile, while battling to hold onto the lead against the EST1 Porsche, received a similarly heavy clout from CWS entering turn five, sending both Ginettas perilously close to the gravel. While NM Racing managed to regain 4th, CWS was already en-route to the pits with front-end damage.

Still, lap one contact aside, NM Racing Team was still in the top three after the first two hours behind EST1 Racing and Team Bleekemolen. Smooth running, aided by extensive home track knowledge and surprisingly high attrition under the blazing Catalan sun (by half-distance, 10 different teams had swapped the lead 24 times!) meant the NM Racing Team Ginetta was still comfortably in the top three as night fell. 


Come daybreak, with EST1 losing drive on pit exit earlier in the afternoon, Baporo retiring after an enormous accident at turn one, and Monlau losing time to an unfortunately-timed Code 60, the Spanish team was 2nd only to the metronomic Team Bleekemolen, the latter making full use of that extra set of tyres.


Ultimately, the Dutch team couldn’t hold off the sheer pace of the NM Racing Team Ginetta, which moved back into the overall lead inside the closing three hours. Bleekemolen, just 44 seconds behind at the flag, could at least still celebrate a TCR class win.


The day though belonged to Barcelona’s NM Racing Team, as a jubilant Nil Montserrat was joined on the podium by Spanish compatriots Ivan Pareras and Marc de Fulgencio, France’s Maxime Guillemat, and Russia’s Nikolay Dmitriev. One year later, Dmitriev and Guillemat were back on the top step, team owner Montserrat this time celebrating GT4-class victory.

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