Endurance-racing season is headed into its busy season with a number of 12- and 24-hour races lined up from now through The Big One at Le Mans in June. Your faithful endurance-racing addict correspondent will try to have you covered on as many as possible, including the Nurburgring 24 coming up at the end of May and Le Mans, among others. This weekend finds the endurance racing competing in the Creventic-promoted Hankook 24H Series. Let’s take a look at the coming race.
About the 12 Hours of Austria
This is one of three new races on the Dutch-run Hankook 24H Series calendar along with the 24 Hours of Portimao and the 24 Hours of COTA. It’s also the second of three races in April between the 24H Series and its spinoff Touring Car Endurance Series (TCES). The 24 Hours of Silverstone started the month while the 12 Hours of Magny-Cours TCES runs in two weeks. The 39-car grid represents a solid turnout for a first race, especially since the race shares a weekend with the Nurburgring’s VLN series.
Like many of the 24H Series races, this will be a two-session race that starts with 4-½ hours of racing on Friday. Cars will be placed in parc ferme—untouchable by the crews—overnight with the final 7-½ hours running Saturday.
About the track
With narrow racing surface and incredible elevation changes, the Red Bull Ring should present a unique venue for multiclass racing like that found in the 24H Series. The picturesque Alpine backdrop makes for fantastic vistas and the hills play a big part in the track. The run from the start-finish line to Turn 2, which is the track’s highest point and sharpest corner. Lots of passing should come there. From there the track is a roller coasters with great rhythm over the track’s 2.7 miles and only eight corners.
GT3 cars make up the bulk of this field, which points to the series getting much quicker on the whole. Of the 39 total cars, 16 are GT3 cars. The GT3 cars are split into two classes—A6 Pro and A6 Am—depending on the ratio of professional and amateur drivers. Here’s a quick look at the classes.
A6 Pro – Scuderia Praha come off a convincing win at the 12 Hours of Mugello with their Ferrari 488 and should be one of the pinnacle teams. The Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3R won the season-opening 24 Hours of Dubai and are always a force to be reckoned with. A pair of well-run Lamborghini Huracans from Konrad Motorsport and Grasser Racing will run well, as will the IDEC Sport Mercedes AMG.
A6 Am – Hofor Racing have been around the Dutch-run 24H Series for years and have even won races outright with mostly amateur drivers. Their Mercedes is always a threat for an overall podium. They’ll face Car Collection Motorsport, another 24H Series veteran team, with three Audi R8s. A second Grasser Racing Lamborghini and the GP Extreme Renault RS.01 add some intrigue to the class.
991 – The 991 cup class includes the all-American driver lineup (Joe Foster/Charlie Putnam/Charles Espenlaub) in the PROsport Performance car. They won their class at the 12 Hours of Mugello and lead the class championship. They’ll face a pair of Polish-prepared Olimp Racing cars and two hometown MSG Motorsport Porsches.
SP2 – There are, curiously, more 991 Cup cars in the SP2 class, which is kind of a catch-all for quicker-than-GT4 cars. There’s also a KTM X-Bow GT4 just to confuse things further.
SP3-GT4 – This class usually includes GT4 cars and, you know what, I don’t understand these classes much. There are only three cars in this one and they’re actually all pretty awesome. One is a KTM X-Bow GT4 and another is an Audi TT-RS. The third is a Saker GT, which was a Dutch car raced in a single-make series for a while and sold abroad. This one is powered by a highly tuned Audi 4.2-liter turbodiesel V8 that makes some serious horsepower.
TCR – Curiously, the TCR touring-car class doesn’t feature a Seat Leon, which might be a first in any TCR field. Instead, this race will get one Audi RS3, one Honda Civic, and a pair of Peugeot 308s.
A3 – Both the Cor Euser Racing BMW E92 M3 and the Excelr8 Motorsport John Cooper Works MINI will race back-to-back weekends after the 24 Hours of Silverstone. The English Excelr8 crew are still shaking down this build, which is properly quick, and the Dutch Euser crew are regular class winners that were stymied by mechanical failure at Silverstone.
How to watch
As with all 24H Series races, this one will stream live on the series’ Live page. If you’d like audio-only while you’re working in the garage, you can listen to commentary from Radio Le Mans on the RLM site. Here are the race times stateside:
Qualifying: 4:15 a.m. to 5:55 a.m. ET
Session 1: 8:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. ET
Session 2: 3:15 a.m. ET to 11:45 a.m. ET
[Photos: 24H Series]