This season, the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook incorporates three continents, seven countries and eight world-class racing facilities, all but two of which are current or former Grand Prix venues. On top of that, the ever-growing endurance racing program welcomes changes to its technical and sporting regulations, its class structure, and a new digital initiative.
CREVENTIC’s Ole Dörlemann walks us through some of the developments you’ll want to keep an eye on in 2020.
As is tradition, the 24H SERIES gets underway with the Hankook 24H DUBAI at the 5.39km Dubai Autodrome, and celebrates its 15th iteration on 9-10-11 January. Two months later, endurance racing action continues with the opening European round of the year at Monza. While the 24H SERIES Europe kicking off with a round in Italy is nothing new, 2020 marks the first time that CREVENTIC has hosted an endurance event at the 5.793km Autodromo Nazionale di Monza on 27-28 March.
“Monza is one of the legendary Grand Prix circuits that everyone has on their personal bucket list, and we’re fortunate because the circuit’s identity perfectly matches our series” Ole explains. “We are very proud to be able to start the 2020 24H SERIES Europe at what is most likely to be the fastest circuit we have ever raced at.”
Following the first ever Hankook 12H MONZA, the 24H SERIES travels to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the fourth running of the Hankook 12H SPA. Scheduled for the first weekend of May, and hosted at the legendary 7.004km Ardennes circuit, the event will run for the first time alongside the TCR SPA 500 as a joint main event. It’s a move Ole and his team hopes will put more eyes on both the 12-hour endurance event and the TCR-dedicated 23-hour race, and as a result, drive fan engagement ever further forward.
“The race weekend at Spa in May is set to be a spectacle for any driver, team and spectator,” Ole continues. “Two of our major season highlights combined in one weekend, incorporating 35 hours of endurance racing. For that weekend, we’ve also managed to secure a good line-up of support races with TCR Europe and Peugeot Sport’s 308 Racing Cup. Starting with the parade of TCR cars to Malmedy on Wednesday up until the finish flag on Sunday, we’re hoping the weekend to be one of the greatest endurance weekends even the legendary Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps has experienced.”
All GT teams, and all non-TCR-class TCE entrants, are eligible to compete in the Hankook 12H SPA, the championship implications of which we’ll come back to in a second.
Following some final negotiation, the 4.652km Autódromo Internacional do Algarve returns to the 24H SERIES calendar for the fourth year in a row. While its traditional July spot has been relocated to 12-13-14 June, the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO will count towards both the ‘Europe’ and the ‘Continents’ championships, as it has done since 2017.
On 10 July, the 5.842km Circuit Paul Ricard makes its return to the 24H SERIES calendar, providing our French competitors with a ‘home race’ for the first time since 2017. Amusingly, the home of the Formula 1 French Grand Prix is one of two circuits returning to the schedule after a three-year hiatus, and the Hankook 9H CIRCUIT PAUL RICARD is also the only event on the 24H SERIES calendar to be of neither 12-hour or 24-hour duration.
“We have been playing with the thought of organising a ‘shorter’ endurance race for some years now, and the venue and time of the year could not be better, so we decided to pull the trigger for 2020. The advantage of the Hankook 9H CIRCUIT PAUL RICARD is that it is a very compact race, with Free Practice, Qualifying and race itself all taking place on one day, so the weekend after that can be enjoyed as a little summer vacation in the South of France.”
Following the series’ customary summer break, endurance racing action resumes at the 4.655km Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. A permanent fixture on the 24H SERIES calendar since 2011, the Hankook 24H BARCELONA has been Catalan’s most respected 24-hour motor race since its inauguration in 1998.
The final round of the 24H SERIES Europe takes Creventic and its competitors to the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, another venue not seen on the 24H SERIES calendar since 2017. The Hankook 12H IMOLA, scheduled for 9-10 October, marks the first time that one nation has hosted both the first and last round of a 24H SERIES European season, and will feature CREVENTIC’s now customary end of season prize giving ceremony.
Finally, competitors will travel to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, for the fourth annual Hankook 24H COTA USA. The 5.5km home of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix brings both the ‘Continents’ championship and the 2020 season as a whole to a close on 13-14-15 November.
Alongside its well-established European season, CREVENTIC will host the increasingly popular 24H SERIES Continents for the fourth year in succession in 2020. All teams vying for a ‘Continents’ championship will be required to compete in the Middle East (Dubai), North America (COTA) and at least one of the two designated European legs (Portimão and Barcelona). As in 2019, this structure aims to keep competition as tight as possible, ensuring a championship fight that goes down to the wire.
In the 24H SERIES Europe meanwhile, for which both Portimão and Barcelona are eligible, GT competitors are invited to compete in all six rounds across Italy (twice), Belgium, Portugal, France and Spain. In an effort to keep the title chase wide open, only the best five results from those six races will count towards each GT team and drivers’ points tally.
Across in the TCE division, competitors will race at five rounds from which their best four results will ascertain their championship position. The stand-alone TCR SPA 500 meanwhile, as well as the TCE division’s entry into the Hankook 12H SPA will be a non-championship round.
As detailed at the end of 2019, this year the 24H SERIES bids farewell to ‘A6’ and its ‘SP’ categories, and will introduce brand new nomenclature.
The top tier in GT will now be categorised as ‘GT3-Pro’ and ‘GT3-Am’, and whereas before PRO and AM competitors were gunning for one conjoined ‘A6’ title, now ‘GT3-Pro’ and ‘GT3-Am’ championships will be up for grabs for teams and drivers alike.
‘SPX’ is similarly no more, with ‘special prototype’ machines now competing in the newly renamed ‘GTX’ class, just as former ‘SP3’ and ‘SP2’ teams will be allocated the ‘TCX’ class in TCE. Finally, ‘CUP1’ entrants will now race for ‘TC’ honours.
It is hoped that, as the motorsport landscape continues to develop, broader restrictions for individual categories will lead to fuller classes, and thus, more competitive racing.
“The aim of this was to simplify our class structure, and hopefully provide a broader range of in-class competition. In 2006, we kept things fairly simple with classes ‘A6’ through to ‘A1’, and over the years, many of these categories have evolved into clearly defined classes with clearly defined names. We hope this adjustment has added more definition to our categories.”
In-keeping with its brand new partnership with Trees for 2020, and following changes to the International Sporting Code by the FIA, the 24H SERIES will work to reduce its paper consumption in 2020.
Among the most notable is the new ‘Race Couple’ initiative, which provides competitors entering EV machines the opportunity to start with one electric car and finish with another, both entered under the same entry number and using the same transponder. Given that electric vehicles are unable to hold the range required to complete a 12-hour or 24-hour event, it’s hoped this program will encourage more competitors running sustainable energy cars to compete in the 24H SERIES.
“The face of motorsports will change rapidly in the upcoming yeas and we’re really keen to be more involved with this. Consequently we’ve created the ‘Race Couple’ as an option so electric cars are eligible in our series from as early as next year. We expect this category to become more important in the future as development of electric racing cars continues to gain steam.”
In both the paddock and race control, paper notifications and the official notice board will be abandoned as all missives will from now on be relayed digitally to teams and media alike.
This is particularly significant when it comes to time penalties. Whereas before these were delivered to team managers by runners, now teams will be alerted via the timing screens as usual – where penalties will be marked as ‘Issued’ or ‘Served’, depending on their status – and via the new, online Team Portal. Team managers will also be notified via SMS messages.
“We had two goals in mind: convenience for our teams, and transparency. By introducing a digital penalty system, we can achieve both. It shortcuts communication lines and provides a clear overview to each competitor about all penalties, the status of them, and a personal overview of the individual penalties issued to the team. In the end, no one likes to receive a penalty, but this will make the administration of it a lot easier and future-minded, for CREVENTIC, race control and the teams themselves.”
Safety considerations remain a top priority in the 24H SERIES, and consequently, this year’s technical regulations feature several updates.
The first concerns new protective grating that TCR teams can now fix to their car’s rear wheel arches. This is a move designed to reduce the build-up of marbles in the wheel arches themselves, and thus the likelihood of this being ignited by the hot exhaust pipes.
The brightness of additional headlights will now be checked during scrutineering to ensure drivers and safety personnel are not blinded by the glare both on-track and in the pit lane. Lastly, in an effort to further improve safety in the pit lane, all engines across the GT and TCE divisions must be switched off during pit stops and re-fuelling.