Under normal circumstances, teams from all over the world would be preparing for the 2020 running of the Spa 24 Hour race. The event was originally scheduled for late July, but was postponed due to the global coronavirus pandemic. The Spa endurance race for GT cars has had its start moved to October 24, which just happens to be the same date that central European summer time is scheduled to end. The race will still begin and end at 15:30, but clocks move back during the overnight hours, adding a 25th hour to the 24.
Series boss Stephane Ratel initially didn’t consider the clock change when the rescheduled date was announced, but has taken the happy coincidence as an opportunity to make the race unforgettable.
“When we had the new date and someone pointed that the clocks change that weekend, I thought why not race for the extra hour?” Ratel told Motorsport.com.
He continued,“In these troubled times it is good to do something different and it could be good promotion for the event if, fingers crossed, we can welcome fans. People will remember in 30 years the time that Spa lasted an extra hour.”
Obviously it’s still far too early to know whether fans will be allowed at the track, but the show will go on with or without spectators. This endurance classic will be one for the history books, regardless of which team wins.
Ratel remains optimistic that the grid for his Intercontinental GT Challenge—of which the Spa 24 is a part—will still be full. Much of the grid is made up of competitors in the regional European Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup when the series begins with the Imola race on July 19th.
“Our teams are telling us they are still intending to come, but if deals fall over, it usually happens at the last moment,” he said. “We will know in the days ahead of Imola if everyone is coming.”
There is one other semi-major 25 hour endurance race in the world, and that is the 25 Hours of Thunderhill put on every year in Northern California by the National Auto Sport Association. While clearly not as big or widely subscribed as the Spa 24, it’s worth studying as an indicator of how the extra hour will affect race outcomes.
I’ve attended the Thunderhill race myself a number of times and it may not seem like much, but that extra hour can be hell on teams and cars. That one hour makes fuel and tire strategy all the more important, it tests driver endurance further, it stretches teams and resources just a little bit more. A failure in the final hour is crushing in a 24 hour race, but in a 25 it’s borderline soul destroying.
The race has been run since 1924, and has run every year since 1964. Obviously the rules have changed quite a lot in that time, but this race has given us such famous competitors as the Mercedes-Benz 6.3 Rote Sau (which finished 2nd in 1971). In recent years, the GT3-heavy field has put on a great show. I know I’ll be watching when the race kicks off in October. I can’t wait to see what kind of weather Belgium kicks up to commemorate the first ever Spa 25.