Just how big of an impact does America have on the 24H SERIES?
Think about it. Its halo race in Dubai aside, the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook has long since been considered a European-centred racing program by fans new and old, and even some of its competitors. And yet in November, for the third year in a row, the curtain will close on another year of endurance racing at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. A race that, as we explain on page 52, will close out next year’s 24H SERIES Continents and whose provisional entry numbers this year (51) have already surpassed the inaugural running in 2017 (41) and its follow-up in 2018 (34) with two months left until go time.
Then there’s the steadily increasing American contingent. For two years in succession, American teammates Charles Putman, Charles Espenlaub and Joe Foster – three of the series most popular competitors – have taken the Overall Teams’ and Drivers’ titles in the GT division, and are in contention for the first A6-Am crown in the 24H SERIES Europe at Barcelona. Endurance racing legend Jim Briody (another favourite) will start his 99th and 100th 24-hour races respectively at Barcelona and COTA to much deserved fanfare. Even Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus – a former Nürburgring 24 Hours class winner and team of American racing stalwart, James Glickenhaus – was on the grid at last year’s Hankook 24H COTA USA, aiming to do so again this year.
Yes, vaunted venues like Barcelona, Mugello and Spa-Francorchamps, as well as experienced outfits like Scuderia Praha, Herberth Motorsport, Bas Koeten Racing and Porsche Lorient Racing unquestionably provide the European backbone that’s helped the 24H SERIES develop in grandeur since 2006. But might the likes of CP Racing, COTA and increasing numbers of North American competitors be starting to do the same for the 24H SERIES in the USA?
To find out, we caught up with a few of our more regular American competitors to discuss…
…the 24H SERIES, and the competition therein
“What I like about the 24H SERIES and CREVENTIC is that it’s all so friendly, and driver friendly at that. With a lot of other series, you have to work your butt off just to get on the racetrack, either with the costs or paperwork involved. With CREVENTIC, it’s completely different. They really WANT us to be on the race track, competing. They’re very accommodating. It’s one of the reasons why I really enjoy racing in the 24H SERIES.” - Jim Briody (Cor Euser Racing, #717)
“Wherever you are, racing is just getting more and more competitive. Daytona. Le Mans. Sebring. You need to be so focused on the job, both in and out of the car. But one of the things I really enjoy about the 24H SERIES, especially in Dubai, is that everyone has the same focus and drive to win, but the atmosphere in the paddock, once you walk away from the car, is so friendly and outgoing. Everyone just enjoys being at these races. That makes such a big difference.” – Shane Lewis (CP Racing, #85)
“Above all, I feel this series is very well organised. It’s competitive, but very gentlemen driver friendly, and for me, that’s key. Everybody respects each other on-rack, respects blue flags, looks in their mirrors, leaves room, etc. It’s just a pleasure, because I go racing to have fun. I mean, I’ve done quite a bit of racing in the US, but most of the circuits are in the middle of nowhere. In Europe, you can go racing, but still have time to do Paris, you can do Brussels, Amsterdam, Milan, Florence, Barcelona, etc etc. Where we go racing is just as important.” – Dominique Bastien (Speed Lover, #978)
“Obviously we’ve been around for quite a few years now, Charles, Charlie and I, and that’s primarily because we enjoy the circuits. We really don’t mind the travel, because we get to experience a much wider range of venues than in America. We also like that all the races are longer, either 12 or 24 hours. That suits us perfectly, as a team: the longer the race, the better we are. Also, we very much enjoy the people we compete against. It’s a very fun environment for us to race in, and a lot of the other teams and drivers have become good friends of ours. – Joe Foster (CP Racing, #85)
…how the 24H SERIES promotes its American competitors
“That’s one of the things that will draw a team to run a certain kind of series. Even if they’re running dead last, and they’re getting the exposure, you’ll find that will really whet the appetite of a lot of teams who are not involved with CREVENTIC. Remember, sponsors like having their names mentioned. That’s major. And in fairness, you guys and radiolemans.com do a great job with that, especially on the live stream. That’s major.” – Jim Briody
…preparing for a 24H SERIES race, as an American driver
“In terms of learning new circuits, it’s a lot easier these days because pretty much everything you need is on YouTube. Thanks for posting the on-boards, everyone! Plus we have the additional test day if we need it, which is great.
Jetlag is always one of the most difficult things, and if I get the opportunity, I will travel one or two days early just to get my body clock adjusted. The schedules for [24H SERIES] events really help with that. Okay, it can be a little tough having night practice right before the race, but in many ways, that’s a good thing. Everyone now has so many responsibilities, whether it’s business or family, and having a very economical schedule, where you spend the least amount of time you want to at the circuit with the maximum amount of track time is the best. Honestly, CREVENTIC does better than anyone else.” – Shane Lewis
…how the 24H SERIES compares with other endurance racing series
“Any time I meet anyone from CREVENTIC, ‘oh Jim, how you doin’?’ They acknowledge that I exist, and they do this with all the other drivers. And that’s great. That’s something you don’t always get with other series. You have to remember that drivers have egos, and if you can polish that a bit, it makes them want to come back!” – Jim Briody
“Every year CREVENTIC comes up with new tracks and new places for us to visit, which is terrific. Compare that with other series in the US. Okay, I mainly did single seaters back then, but mostly, you’d end up visiting the same circuits based mainly on budget: I’ve heard a number of times that European sports cars are much cheaper than in America. You could race in Europe for around half the cost, and that’s very significant. So, you can get great racing in great places for lower costs. That’s a very good proposition, and is one of the reasons I’ve been racing sports cars in Europe since 2012.” – Dominique Bastien
“I’ve raced in IMSA, the [Pirelli] World Challenge and all kinds of other series in the US, and I’ve found that every sanctioning body operates and develops very differently, depending on the region they’re based in and what suits that. And you sometimes can’t avoid politics in that situation. In Europe you have a much wider array of cars and teams, meaning logistics for travel and shipping are very different. The circuits are so much closer together for instance, and that makes a huge difference. It is definitely a lot more expensive to race in IMSA for example than it is with CREVENTIC, and that’s one of the reasons we keep coming back” – Joe Foster
…the Hankook 24H DUBAI
“Dubai is fantastic. And unique. I mean, what else would you rather do in January?!” – Dominique Bastien
“It’s a really interesting venue. It’s completely out of the ordinary, the race track is phenomenal – I really love the track – and there’s a lot of things you can do in Dubai. You can do the city tour, they have the highest building in the world [the Burj Khalifa], they have the desert safaris, you can go down to the Souks and tire yourself out looking at gold! Dubai is just a great place to visit.” – Jim Briody
“I loved starting the year with the [Hankook] 24H DUBAI! CREVENTIC does such a great job with the race in Dubai, and competitors come from all over the world, so you get fantastically tight levels of competition. This year I really enjoyed getting the chance to see people I’d made friends with in the past in the series, as well as new people I was racing against for the first time. It really helps kicking off a brand new year with such an amazing event.” – Shane Lewis
…the impact a long-term Hankook 24H COTA USA could have on American competitors
“Last year there was a bunch of teams at [the Circuit of the Americas] and drivers that myself, Charlie and Charles knew very well, and we did ask them to come back for this year’s race. They definitely had a good time. We enjoyed it because, one of things we like about CREVENTIC is learning the European circuits, so we wanted to share COTA with our European friends. A lot of teams had not been to COTA before, and so we did what we could to get them up to speed as quickly as we could. We wanted to beat them, sure, but we wanted our home race to be an exciting one too!” – Joe Foster
“I think the [Hankook 24H COTA USA] is very special. I love Texas. I’m there A LOT, to the point that some say I’m now an honorary Texan. And I love the Circuit of the Americas, so I’m really excited to be going back this year. I think for the 24H SERIES too, it’s really important to have a presence in the US. Not enough people in North America really know about CREVENTIC. In Europe, you guys are super popular. But in the US, I don’t think teams understand how good the series really is and how they can get maximum track time over a 24-hour race. Very competitive, good rules package, Hankook Tires does a great job. Yeah, it’s cheaper to go to Europe and run a race than it is in the US, so the fact that CREVENTIC is so keen to promote a US race is brilliant, and I hope more North American teams will start taking an interest.” – Shane Lewis
“The 24H SERIES in America could be huge! COTA track is now so well established with Formula 1 and IndyCar, etc, Austin is a great city to go to, and in terms of costs, it’s very reasonable. I think CREVENTIC could do very well at COTA if it continues to approach US teams and promote the event properly. I’m hoping to go myself for the first time this year, and I doubt it would be the last time either. This race can only get bigger and better.” – Dominique Bastien