As an unabashed fan of endurance racing, I’m eager to share with Hooniverse’s readers previews of all the major endurance races in 2017. The latest installment for the coming weekend is the 24 Hours of Silverstone, the season-opener for the Touring Car Endurance Series. It’s not the high-profile race of a Sebring or Le Mans, but the racing should be good enough to entertain the fan of endurance racing. Let’s take a short look.
About the 24 Hours of Silverstone
You may recall the 24 Hours of Silverstone from an episode of Top Gear where the Stig and the three stooges raced a biodiesel BMW 3-Series. This is something of a continuation of that race, albeit with a new sanctioning body, the Hankook 24H Series, as part of the Touring Car Endurance Series.
As the name suggests, touring cars are the main focus so these entries are, for the most part, based on road-going cars that are fairly attainable. There are no cars built to GT3 specifications, nor are there Porsche Cup or the 24H Series’ SP2 class for high-performance cars. The overall winner will likely come from the TCR or the SP3-GT4 class; either of which could probably be considered the top class in terms of pace.
About the Track
Silverstone is likely the most famous racetrack in the United Kingdom, playing host to Formula 1 and the World Endurance Championship annually. Built on a World War II aerodrome, the track has very little elevation change, but it does offer a mix of very technical corners that give it character and very good wheel-to-wheel racing. Like most circuits in the UK, rain perpetually threatens to change a race’s complexion with little notice.
The 24H Series focuses on making old-school endurance races that are attainable for the everyday racer rather than big professional teams. As such, there are no real household names and only a few names recognizable to enthusiastic racing fans. If you’re like me, that means heading into the racing with few preconceived notions or teams to cheer for. That can make for a good experience by letting the racing dictate the heroes and goats rather than having anything make up your mind for you.
Generally speaking, the whole of this race tends to be very old-school. The team that can keep their car off pitlane, usually with only a minor fix or two required, will win the race. The field isn’t so deep that the winner must drive at 10/10ths for 24 straight hours. There’s some measuring of pace to find the right balance of speed, economy, tire durability, and mechanical sympathy.
Here’s a quick rundown of the entry list for the five classes:
TCR – The winner will likely come from this class, which includes cars built to the touring-car specs of the TCR International Series. This specification is growing like a weed: Audi recently announced they’d sold an incredible 90 Audi RS3 TCR cars since offering it for sale last fall. The cars are relatively cheap (around $125,000) and fast while also being easy to drive with paddle-shift sequential gearboxes and traction control.
Fifteen TCR cars are signed up for this race with #100 Team Bleekemolen, anchored by Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (whose brother Jeroen just won the 12 Hours of Sebring), likely one of the heavyweights. An early favorite should be the #105 Zest Racecar Engineering Seat Leon with American drivers Jon Miller and Lance Bergstein comprising half the four-driver lineup. Seats make up 12 of the 15 cars with a pair of Audi RS3s and a single Volkswagen GTI rounding things out.
SP3-GT4 – An interesting mix of cars turn up here. Only three are built to GT4 spec, a Porsche Cayman and two Ginettas, but they’ll be joined by a BMW 1M, a V8-powered BMW M3, and a Lotus Exige with a bench-sized wing on it. The Ginettas are race-proven, but the non-GT4 cars in the class should have ample pace.
A3 – Similarly, I’m not sure how cars end up in this class. There’s a Seat Leon Supercopa car in here along with a few BMW M3s, two Civic Type-Rs, and a John Cooper Works MINI. This is some proper old-school racing where these cars are going to work in very different ways to make their lap times.
CUP1 – Four cars will race in this spec class for BMW M235i Cup cars. We got a close-up look at one of the very few of these stateside and they are impressive machines. They’re huge in Germany in the VLN series, but they’re slowly migrating outward in the 24H Series.
A2 – What used to be a large class in the 24H Series has withered to just two. The entry-level hatchback class now includes only the Team Sally Racing Renault Clio Cup and the Area MS/Owens Endurance Honda Civic.
How To Watch It and Resources
The 24H Series will stream the whole race live on their website, starting Saturday at 3:30 a.m ET. If you have MotorTrendOnDemand, you can also watch it there, which would allow you to ChromeCast it on your television. All commentary will come from the great Radio Le Mans crew and you can listen live to audio-only streaming on the RLM site if you’re in the garage and want a race on in the background.
[Photos: 24H Series]