As the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook readies itself for the 2019 season finale at COTA, we look ahead to the 2020 season with the help of CREVENTIC’s Gerrie Willems.
Just over 32 hours of on-track action remain before we crown our 2019 24H SERIES Continents champions at the Circuit of the Americas in November. The dust rarely has time to settle in the 24H SERIES though, with many teams having already packed their freight containers for the 2020 Hankook 24H DUBAI 13,208km away in the United Arab Emirates, give or take a grain of sand or two.
And by the looks of the 2020 calendar that’s been officially revealed, Dubai’s 24-hour event looks set to be just the start of a very impressive eight-race season.
“It’s certainly going to be a challenging season!” explains CREVENTIC’s Gerrie Willems. “The 24H SERIES Europe and the 24H SERIES Continents will both be back for 2020, and we have some very exciting venues for our competitors to experience next year. This is easily one of our strongest calendars yet.”
Unsurprisingly, the Dubai Autodrome takes its now customary spot on the calendar in early January. One of the biggest endurance races worldwide (both in terms of grid size and prestige), the Hankook 24H DUBAI is also on course to be the first 24-hour race of the New Year in 2020 on 9-10-11 January.
The 5.390km Dubai Autodrome hosted the first official CREVENTIC endurance event in 2006 and, while it’s not the oldest event on the calendar (that accolade goes to Barcelona), Dubai remains the only race to have headlined every 24H SERIES calendar to-date. It’s not too hard to see why the halo Hankook 24H DUBAI has fast become CREVENTIC’s most definitive event, and arguably, it’s most popular.
Supporting the 15th annual Hankook 24H DUBAI will be the opening round of the 2020 TCR Middle East on 9-10 January – the first of two rounds in 2020 – which returns for its fourth consecutive season and its second under the CREVENTIC umbrella.
Two months after the Middle East rounds, the European season gets underway at the vaunted Autodromo Nazionale Monza on 27-28 March. Easily one of the highest profile events to join the 24H SERIES portfolio, the Hankook 12H MONZA replaces Mugello as the Italian leg of next year’s 24H SERIES Europe and will be run on the 5.793km Grand Prix layout.
“We always enjoyed hosting a round in Italy, and previous races in Misano and Mugello received a lot of positive feedback from teams and partners. So we’re very confident that opening our European season at Monza will be something to remember. The Autodromo is one of the most iconic circuits in the world, the drivers will love it, and the fans will love it.”
Just over a month later, teams and drivers journey to the beautiful Ardennes region in Belgium for the fourth annual Hankook 12H SPA. An event set to make 24H SERIES history across the 1-2-3 May weekend.
In 2020, the 7.004km Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps will feature a double bill of back-to-back 12 and 24-hour endurance racing action for only the second time in CREVENTIC history. GT and TCE division entrants (minus TCR) will race across Friday and Saturday in the Hankook 12H SPA, while the touring car-exclusive TCR SPA 500 – back after a successful inaugural run this year – will run uninterrupted from Saturday afternoon for 500 laps or 23 hours, whichever arises first.
“Our Spa weekend will definitely be a highlighter, as we essentially have two ‘main events’,” Gerrie explains. “We really wanted to make this a high profile weekend, with the Hankook 12H SPA and the TCR SPA 500 being run back-to-back at one of the biggest Grand Prix circuits in the world. The first weekend of May is going to be huge!”
“We also wanted to make the TCR SPA 500 a more feasible event for TCR competitors too. In 2019, we had five Europe rounds and a standalone TCR race. That worked well, but we still felt there was room for improvement. So for 2020, the TCR SPA 500 will be included in the 24H SERIES Europe calendar and will also be promoted as an ‘invitational’ event, but will be included on the calendar alongside the fourth annual Hankook 12H SPA for some added gravitas. It’s also more considerate for team and driver budgets too, and hopefully gives some of our competitors a little added incentive!”
On 12-13 June, the 24H SERIES moves to the Anneau du Rhin for the first-ever Hankook 12H ALSACE. In illustrious company, the 3.7km circuit, first opened in 1996, is based in the evocative Haut-Rhin region of Alsace, was inspired by the layout of Circuit Paul Ricard, and was commissioned by Caroline Bugatti, granddaughter of Bugatti founder, Ettore. The event also marks a return to France for the 24H SERIES event after previous races in Magny-Cours and Paul Ricard in 2017.
Few additions to the calendar though have raised eyebrows higher than the Hankook 12H NURBURGING. Set to be held around the Grand Prix circuit on 11-12 July, the race marks the debut of the former Formula 1 venue on the 24H SERIES calendar and is the first time a round of the European season has been held in Germany. And yes, you did read that right. The first-ever Hankook 12H NURBURGING will be held on the 5.148km Grand Prix configuration rather than the 20km ‘Green Hell’. And with good reason.
“One of the biggest requests we’ve had in recent years was for a ‘home’ race for our German competitors, and thanks to a lot of cooperation and assistance from the [Nürburgring-based] VLN, we’ll finally be able to host a 24H SERIES race at the Nürburgring.
“The plan was always to use the Grand Prix circuit. The Nordschleife is very, very special, and being at the circuit for the first time will surely be one of our highlights of next season. But we also felt the Grand Prix circuit, which has a rich history all of its own, offered a unique opportunity that so many drivers have yet to experience. We also didn’t want to tread on any toes with the VLN, given how supportive they’ve been during the planning.”
Following the series’ customary summer break, the 24H SERIES Europe season draws to a close with the 22nd annual running of the Hankook 24H BARCELONA on 4-5-6 September. An “eye-catcher” in its own right, the 4.655km Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is also the only 24-hour race on the European calendar for the first time since 2014. And unlike 2019, this year Barcelona will be the sole European round on the 24H SERIES Continents schedule.
Finally, the “challenging” 2020 season draws to a close with the Hankook 24H COTA USA on 13-14-15 November, the fourth time since its inaugural event in 2017. As ever-increasing grid numbers continue to suggest, especially from American teams and drivers, the Circuit of the Americas is fast-establishing itself as one of CREVENTIC’s ‘special’ races alongside Dubai and Barcelona.
“Definitely! COTA continues to receive so much interest, and not just from American teams and drivers looking for a ‘home’ race but also European teams looking for a fresh challenge.
“We’ll also be continuing the ‘split’ 12-hour / 12-hour format too, which has received a lot of positive feedback. A 24-hour race, regardless of how it’s arranged, still requires a huge amount of energy and effort, but there’s no question that ‘the split’ has helped create a relaxed atmosphere in the paddock. Hopefully that will be the case in 2020 too.”