WHY SEBRING COULD BE THE NEXT ‘BIG THING’ IN THE 24H SERIES
WHY SEBRING COULD BE THE NEXT ‘BIG THING’ IN THE 24H SERIES
It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the Sebring International Raceway is one of the most exciting additions yet to the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook.
The Floridian circuit after all is North America’s oldest permanent road racing facility and has hosted the vaunted Sebring 12 Hours almost every year since 1952. Motorsport titans like Juan Manuel Fangio, Mario Andretti, Sir Stirling Moss, Bruce McLaren and Tom Kristensen – Good Lord, need we go on?! – have either fashioned a name for themselves around Sebring’s repurposed runways, or added yet further cachet to an already Hall of Fame career.
On top of 71 years of motor racing history, the circuit is also a common placeholder on many drivers’ bucket lists. The concrete on the start-finish straight (originally poured in 1941 when the International Raceway was still the Hendricks Field military base), the notorious bumps, and the tight and technical infield intercutting an otherwise high-speed circuit remain a challenge to even the most experienced competitors to this day, and are among the main reasons why the 5.954km Grand Prix layout has stayed largely unchanged since 1999. How exactly can CREVENTIC not be excited about the prospect of an event at the Birthplace of American Endurance Racing?
“We cannot express the pride we feel to be able to host a race at a venue of such historic significance” explains Ole Dörlemann, CREVENTIC’s sporting coordinator. “The Sebring International Raceway is arguably one of the most sensational venues we could name on our calendar, and we are proud to be able to give our Northern American, European and global teams this highlight race at the end of our 2021 season, at which we will crown our new 24H SERIES Continents champion.”
Sebring’s arrival as the 2021 season finale though brings with it more than ‘just’ seven decades of heritage. Indeed, on 18-19-20 November, the inaugural Hankook 24H SEBRING will mark the fourth time in five years that the 24H SERIES has been contested across three continents, a hallmark of any respected motor racing program.
In 2017, the 24H SERIES ventured Stateside for the very first time when the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, agreed to host that year’s season finale. An impressive undertaking it proved too, the entry list boasting Freddie Hunt (son of 1976 Formula 1 champion, James), radiolemans.com’s own John Hindhaugh, and Aston Martin CEO Dr Andy Palmer who competed in the then-brand new Aston Martin Vantage GT8. Even The Great British Bake-Off star Paul Hollywood donned his racesuit and fireproofs for that year’s 24-hour event!
Organising a transatlantic leg then is nothing new to CREVENTIC, and while COTA provided a unique opportunity for the Dutch promoter to test the American waters, a long-term collaboration with Sebring could be just the ticket to establish the 24H SERIES properly in the US of A. This is the same venue, lest we forget, that hosted the first FIA World Championship Sports Car Race in 1953 and the inaugural round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2012. Providing a platform on which a global franchise can grow is hardly a new concept for the former United States Army Air Forces base…
“After visiting the United States at COTA from 2017 until 2019, we felt it was time for a change of venue,” Ole continues. “Many of our series’ regular drivers and teams had already shown their interest in continuing to race in North America, and when Sebring arose as a possible venue, drivers and teams were very, very keen on that idea. A lot of them have already confirmed their attendance for the Hankook 24H SEBRING and we still have nine months to go!
“We always want to offer our drivers, teams and fans an experience, and there’s an excitement resonating about Sebring that really inspired us to try and make this happen. We really do believe that Sebring has everything we need to become a ‘highlight race’ for the 24H SERIES, up there with Dubai, Barcelona and the Coppa Florio.”
There is a 12-hour shaped elephant in the room that should be addressed though. Not only will CREVENTIC organise its first official event at Sebring in November, but it will do so with the longest international motor race the circuit has ever hosted.
Really think about that for a second. One of North America’s most famous endurance event has fluctuated its 12-hour magnum opus only once in its seven-decade history, and even that was the three-hour memorial race dedicated to circuit institutor Sam Collier that inaugurated the venue back in 1950. And yet, on the Dutch promoter’s first collaboration with IMSA and management at the Sebring International Raceway, CREVENTIC is challenging it competitors to run twice that established distance first time out the box. Isn’t that… a bit mental?!
“Absolutely! “In fact, some have said the idea of hosting an annual 24-hour race at Sebring sounds totally crazy! But I believe that this is what tempts drivers and teams to join the event. The ruthless nature of Sebring with its narrow straights and tight corners, plus the historic significance, combine to create an ultimate challenge in endurance racing. One we’re really looking forward to seeing unfold in November.
Comparisons are inevitable. How could they not be? But while the Sebring 12 Hours is traditionally the first gruelling step for teams on ‘the Road to Le Mans’, CREVENTIC is confident that the ‘relaxed’ familial atmosphere of the 24H SERIES, one that’s been promoted at close to two dozen across Europe and the Middle East since 2006, will be its ace in the hole on 12-13-14 November. Far from replacing Sebring’s famed 12-hour event – if such an exercise were even possible – it’s hoped the Hankook 24H SEBRING will be the start of a new, bespoke chapter, not just for the 24H SERIES in its third continent, but for endurance racing as a whole in North America.
“We are so proud of the atmosphere in our race paddocks. Racing in the 24H SERIES means competitive racing, but against friends. This philosophy has been part of our DNA from the very beginning and we are convinced this is the way of the future as well. Sebring hopefully will open a brand-new chapter for us in North America. We are happy with the good cooperation and want Sebring to become a mainstay on our calendar for years to come.
“Together with the management and staff of Sebring, we are confident that the Hankook 24H SEBRING will become not only an important event for our series, but also for the Northern American endurance racing scene too.”