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The International Motor Sports Association (generally referred to as IMSA) is an American auto racing sanctioning body based in Braselton, Georgia. It was started by John Bishop, a former employee of SCCA (Sports Car Club of America), and his wife Peggy in 1969 with help from Bill France, Sr. of NASCAR.


John Bishop and SCCA

John Bishop, a Sikorsky employee, first became involved in motorsport in the 1950s when he met Dave Allen, a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) staff member. Allen offered Bishop a management position on the SCCA Contest Board, which Bishop quickly accepted. Bishop moved to Westport, Connecticut shortly thereafter.<ref name="IMSAblog Apr 06">Template:Citation/core{{#if:|}}</ref> Bishop's duties consisted of defining technical rules and general administration of SCCA competition, as well as providing artwork for many of the club's magazines and event programmes.<ref name="prototypes, p14">Template:Citation/core{{#if:|}}</ref> He became well-known in the motorsport scene and enjoyed a good relationship with the organization's president, Jim Kimberly<ref name="IMSAblog Feb 06">Template:Citation/core{{#if:|}}</ref>

In 1958, things would change for Bishop as the SCCA experienced internal changes. A new Executive Director position was created, to which each Regional Executive reported to. This position was taken by Hugo Rush, who later became instrumental in Allen's departure. Although Bishop's relationship with Rush was not good, Bishop gained a vast amount of experience and began to show his qualities as a manager.<ref name="IMSAblog Apr 06"/>

Rush would later depart due to his disagreement with the club as it moved to promote professional motor sports. Bishop took his place as Executive Director and was now responsible for both amateur and professional programs. To ensure a more serious level of competition, he was tasked with rewriting the technical rules for the newly formed Pro Racing program.<ref name="IMSAblog Apr 06"/>

The SCCA had now taken the big step up to professional racing. By 1962, the SCCA was tasked with managing major World Championship for Makes rounds, particularly at Daytona, Sebring, Bridgehampton and Watkins Glen. The club was also involved in the US Grand Prix. Bishop helped to create the USRRC (United States Road Racing Championship) series for Group 7 sports cars to recover races that had been taken by rival United States Automobile Club (USAC). Bishop was also instrumental in founding the SCCA Trans-Am series and the SCCA/CASC Can-Am series.<ref name="IMSAblog Apr 06"/>

In 1969, the tension and in-fighting caused Bishop to resign.<ref name="IMSAblog Apr 06"/>


Bill France, Sr. was instrumental in the creation of the International Motor Sports Association. France founded NASCAR as a professional oval track series and wanted to do the same for road racing. After discussions with Bishop, IMSA was born and Bishop was given the sole control of the organization (like NASCAR, there was no board of directors). France financed the majority of the organization and owned 75% of the stock; Bishop owned the remaining 25%.

The first race to be organized by IMSA was a Formula Vee and Formula Ford event at Pocono Raceway in October 1969. The SCCA threatened the circuit management and asked them to block IMSA from racing there. The event was held, although IMSA had to pay an additional $10,000 in rental fees. The race had an attendance of 328 spectators.

The organization soldiered on despite the small crowds, and another ten races were planned. Bill France, suffering from financial setbacks, brought on new investors to take over part of his stake in the series.

The GT era

Template:Further By the end of the 1970 season, Bishop realized that single-seaters were not capable of attracting large crowds. So he helped to establish the foundations of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) "J appendix" for World Championship for Makes sports cars. For the end of the 1970 season, he advertised a new championship for Group 2 and Group 4 cars with equity between competitors.<ref name="IMSAblog Apr 06"/>

The Template:IMSA Grand Touring (GT) season introduced international endurance racing to North America. In Template:IMSA, Camel Cigarettes became the new sponsor of the GT series and the sedan series became known as the B.F. Goodrich Radial Challenge. By Template:IMSA, the organization gained recognition from the FIA and sanctioned the 12 hours of Sebring for the first time.

Bishop did not believe that factory teams would stick with the new series, so he tried to ensure that the rules were not biased in their favor. He was in favor of looking after privateer teams and helping them to become competitive. As European cars began to dominate, a new series was formed in Template:IMSA called All American Grand Touring (AAGT) to give equal latitude to foreign cars. Turbocharged cars were permitted in Template:IMSA.

In the same year, Bishop invited a pair of Jean Rondeau-built Inaltera's to compete as "special prototypes". They became the foundation of the newly formed Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category in Template:IMSA, with separate rules similar to Group C (Bishop was unhappy with the fuel consumption formula of the latter).<ref name="Endurance">Template:Citation/core{{#if:|}}</ref>

In Template:IMSA, Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA), the organizers of the World Endurance Championship (WEC), attempted to unite the two organizations by scrapping the existing formula and adopting IMSA rules. This did not please Porsche, which was spending vast sums of money on engine development at the time. Porsche responded by boycotting the 24 Hours of Le Mans of that year. FISA responded by abandoning the rule change for the time being.<ref name="Endurance"/>

In Template:IMSA, FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre almost made a successful attempt to settle the dispute by announcing that turbochargers and fuel restrictions would be phased out by 1989 (excepting naturally aspirated engines below 3.5 liters). This attempt failed, as did another in 1991, in which with chassis ballast penalties for turbocharged cars rendered them uncompetitive, except at Le Mans.<ref name="Endurance"/>

IMSA continued to have success with its own Camel GT series.<ref name="Endurance"/>

New ownership

In 1987, John Bishop had to undergo a heart bypass surgery, forcing him to rethink his priorities. He began to realise that the Camel GT series was in danger of becoming oriented toward the factory-backed teams and less to the privateers as Bishop originally intended. Rules were modified to accommodate the factory teams, which wanted to get into the series, despite Bishop's belief that would be unlikely to the series on the long run, especially if they failed to meet their objectives.<ref name="prototypes, p14"/>

In January 1989, the Bishops sold the company to Mike Cone and Jeff Parker, owners of the IMSA Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.<ref name="prototypes, p14"/> Bishop shortly stepped down as the organisation's president in favor of Mark Raffauf, his deputy president and the organisation's representative on the ACCUS (Automobile Competition Committee for the United States), an FIA recognised sporting body.<ref name="Endurance"/> Cone and Parker in turn sold the organization to businessman Charles Slater by the early 1990s.<ref name="tampa 20dec96">Template:Citation/core{{#if:|}}</ref>

In 1996 Slater sold the organization with previously accumulated debt to Roberto Muller (ex-CEO of Reebok) and Wall Street based portfolio manager for Bill Gates, Andy Evans, who also was an IndyCar owner and owner/driver of the Scandia World Sports Car team. These changes would lead to the departure of many of the executive board members.<ref name="tampa 20dec96"/> Evans and Vice-President of Marketing Kurtis Eide were responsible for the name change to Professional Sports Car Racing (PSCR).<ref name="Smotherman">Template:Citation/core{{#if:|}}</ref>

A breakaway series formed by the USRRC in 1998 involving the Sports Car Club of America and headed by a group of competitors and ex IMSA personnel including John Bishop, Bill France Jr., Rob Dyson, Roger Penske, Skip Barber, and Ralph Sanchez. They wanted to keep rules within the United States initially failed, as a result, Don Panoz and Barber departed to affiliate themselves with PSCR.<ref name="Smotherman"/> A second attempt with full support of NASCAR's France family and other motorsports notables known as Grand-Am began in 1999. Grand-Am struggled early on, but has proven to be a formidable competitor to the ALMS in recent years with a different philosophy based on lower-tech cars -the Daytona Prototypes- giving larger fields and closer competition. Much like the split between Champ Car and the IRL this split has been detrimental to the sport as a whole. Attendance, sponsorships and media coverage have dropped dramatically since the split in 1998.

Under tremendous pressure from team owners and management Evans sold the organisation to Don Panoz in 2001,<ref name="Smotherman"/> to solidify the sanction for Panoz's American Le Mans Series which had been sanctioned by PSCR since 1999. Don Panoz renamed the sanctioning organization back to IMSA and is now the official sanctioning body of the ALMS, as well as the Star Mazda series and the Panoz GT Pro series. The ALMS uses regulations based on those of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The series

These are the series that are run by the IMSA organisation

Current series

American Le Mans Series

The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) was launched in 1999 by Dr. Don Panoz as a replacement for the dwindling IMSA GT Championship. With keystone races such as the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans, the series serves as qualifier for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) who runs the 24 Hours of Le Mans has given their full backing of the American Le Mans Series, which currently runs two classes of Le Mans Prototypes (LMP) and two classes of Grand Touring (GT) cars.

Prototype Lites

Main article: IMSA Prototype Lites

Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship (formerly IMSA Lites) is a 15 race series featuring three classes of single seat prototype cars racing simultaneously. Most races are held in support of the American Le Mans Series.<ref></ref> The L1 class features Elan Motorsports Technologies DP02 cars powered by a Mazda MP2 engine,<ref>Microsoft Word - IMSA Lites1 Tech Regs _attachment 1_.doc</ref> L2 consists of West Racing WX10 and WR1000 chassis with either a Kawasaki ZX-10R or Suzuki GSXR engine<ref></ref> and L3 is a SCCA Sports Racer powered by a Mazda MZR engine.<ref></ref> Each class has an overall championship, a master’s championship for drivers at least 40 years of age and a team championship.

Formula BMW USA

Main article: Formula BMW

The Formula BMW USA series is one the North American version of the open-wheel series supported by BMW. All running identical chassis powered by BMW motorcycle engines, the series serves as stepping stone for formula car drivers moving into higher international series. A world championship of all Formula BMW series is run at the end of the year, taking the top drivers from Formula BMW USA and the other similar series elsewhere in the world.

GT3 Cup

The IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge is a one-make series dedicated to the Porsche 911 GT3, similar in concept to the Porsche Supercup. The series is more cost effective then the Supercup in that drivers are allowed to race either newer 997-generation 911s or older 996s in two different classes, Platinum and Gold. The entries are allowed in selected races of the American Le Mans Series starting in 2009, due to the decline of the ALMS' GT1 class.

Star Mazda Championship

Main article: Star Mazda Series

The Star Mazda Championship is a Mazda supported open-wheel road racing support series that serves to help drivers escalate through the ranks of American open-wheel racing. All teams run identical chassis with Mazda rotary engines out of a Mazda RX-8.

Panoz Racing Series

Originally began as Women's Global GT Series, formed by Lyn St. James in 1999, the series began as a support race to ALMS for women racers, using the race modified version of the Panoz Esperante series of cars.<ref name=autogenerated2>Giovanna Amati - Biography</ref> The series was an invitational affair with forty one drivers are selected out of four hundred applicants to participate in the Women’s Global GT Series.<ref>A Sporting Life page 2</ref> The grid would usually consists of experienced racers such as former Formula One drivers, Giovanna Amati and Divina Galica, NASCAR's Shawna Robinson, and Italian Audi factory team touring car driver Tamara Vidali against talented amateur drivers from varying degrees of professions, such as radio personality, police officer, law student, and racing simulations art designer for Microsoft.<ref name=autogenerated2 />

One of its most notable drivers to graduate from the Women series is Milka Duno, who currently competes, as of the 2007 season, in Indy Racing League.

The series would run for another year before the rules was changed to allow male drivers to compete, therefore it became the Panoz Racing Series. In 2004, the series would be split into a two-season series, a Winter and Summer GT series which would consist of races held over three rounds followed by finale round at a major ALMS race. The Summer Series finale would take place at the Petit Le Mans. The Winter Series would follow after that race concluding at the 12 Hours of Sebring

Atlantic Championship

Main article: Atlantic Championship

In June 2008, IMSA began sanction of the Atlantic Championship.

Defunct series


The International Sedan series was ran between 1971 to 1993<ref name=autogenerated1>Auto Racing Analysis (ARA) Home Page</ref>


Main article: IMSA GT Championship


The IMSA RS Series (abbreviation for Radial Sedan) began as the Baby Grand Series, in 1971. Originally sponsored by B.F. Goodrich (therefore known as Goodrich Radial Challenge) until they dropped sponsorship midway through 1975 (or 1976) and then by Goodyear (becoming the Goodyear Radial Challenge), and later as Champion Spark Plug Challenge.

The initial race held was in 1969 at Talladega Superspeedway Road Course, Racey Frizzell was first overall in an Alfa Romeo sedan;Template:Citation needed the Series first year was actually 1970 with only two races, the inaugural race was at the newly constructed Summit Point Motorsports Park on Memorial Day weekend, Racey Frizzell was first overall in an Alfa Romeo Sedan; the second race was held at the Montgomery Speedway, Alabama, Red Farmer won in a specially prepared Datsun 510. Racey didn't fare too well having to drive against the local 4 Cylinder "beater class" cars brought in to fill out the field, with their protruding wheels rubbing Racey's "immaculate" Alfa Romeo, infuriated, he quit and never ran another IMSA RS race after that.<ref name="Coleman">Steve Coleman, 1972 IMSA Class A RS Series Drivers Champion</ref> Steve Coleman, who competed in both 1970 races, was the only driver that ran both of these races and then continuously in the Series throughout the early years; 1970–1977

The idea was to attract racers who did not have the budgets that was required in the GT category as well as an emphasis on compact sedans such as the AMC Gremlin and the Opel Manta. There were two classes from 1970 through 1973: Class A for under two liters and under 1.6 liters with overhead cam and Class B for over 1.6 L with overhead cam and over two liters up to the largest permitted engine being the 232 cu in. AMC Gremlin. In 1974 all cars were placed in one class, with the only parity for the smaller engines being free carburetion for under 1.6 liters. Limited preparation was permitted, and since the entrants were meant to be street-driven race cars, the original rules required the retention of headlights, seats, upholstery, window cranks, stock brakes and original springs and radial tires. Only the exhaust systems and shock absorbers were free. Later rules regarding headlights, seats, upholstery, window cranks, original springs, and other stock elements were loosened up somewhat. From the beginning, engine modifications similar to Sports Car Club of America B Sedan were permitted, with the main difference being that over-boring cylinders was not allowed, and stock carburetors being required, but modifications allowed. In addition, springs and alignment were free.<ref name="Coleman" /> The series was loosely based on rival SCCA Trans-Am's Two-Five Challenge rules.<ref>History of the Trans-AM 2.5 Challenge</ref><ref>Grassroots Motorsports » Potent Pintos: These Drivers Have No Worries About Being Hit from Behind</ref>

The series became dominated mostly by Mazda's rotary powered RX-2 and RX-3 prompting IMSA to specify heavier weights than piston-engined cars and prohibited any modifications to the rotors and more importantly to intake and exhaust ports.<ref>MazdaUSA > MAZDASPEED > Motorsports > Racing Heritage</ref> Datsun also had a fair share of success within the series with cars such as the 510 and 200SX. Many drivers would cut their teeth in this series such as Don Devendorf, of Electramotive fame, Jim Downing, of Kudzu, and Bobby Rahal. The final season was run in 1984 before it was replaced by the IMSA Showroom Stock class the following year, while retaining its sponsor until 1988.<ref>1987 Champion Spark Plug Challenge Mid-Ohio Photo Gallery by Mark Windecker at</ref> As with most now-defunct racing classes, there are revival races run for this category and the SCCA sanctions events for mostly stock and all stock, cars.

American Challenge

The American Challenge or known in full as Kelly American Challenge, otherwise abbreviated as AAC was a category for US built cars and throughout the series, it has always been run as a support race to the premier GT series. Starting in 1977, the series ran until 1989.<ref name=autogenerated1 /> In 1992, all this was rewarded, when the premier GTO category was renamed to GTS due to sponsor reasons, rather than leaving the GTO category redundant, the title was reallocated to the former American Challenge cars, as a result, they would be run alongside GTS cars. This series started the careers of Irv Hoerr, Kenny Irwin, Jr, Patty Moise, Clay Young, Lyn St. James and Paul Gentilozzi.<ref></ref>

IMSA Renault Cup

The Renault Cup is a one-make racing series that ran between 1982 to 1985. There was an East Coast (1982–1985) and West Coast series (1983–1985) as well as an overall championship. The Series began with the Renault Le Car for two seasons on the East Coast until the its discontinuation in the US. The last two seasons, the East Coast Series ran the Renault Encore. The West Coast Series started after the first successful year on the East Coast, but ran the Renault Alliance which had just been introduced.<ref>My Renault Racing History</ref><ref>Charles Downes still ‘fast and furious’ at 60</ref>

The genesis of the series was an association of drivers, Associated Road Racers (ARR), founded by Steve Coleman of Raleigh, NC. The association's objective was to start an inexpensive, but competitive series with large car counts. The main prerequisite requirement was a series that would allow drivers who had regular jobs and a life, to compete with at least a chance to win the championship without having to travel coast to coast, as was the case with other series such as the VW Bilstein Cup. The preference was to have a roughly ten race schedule, with each driver's best six finishes counting toward the Championship.

ARR's members were mostly Showroom Stock racers from the Southeast and Northeast Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) regions. All members put up a bond to ensure they would participate if it came to fruition so that a sanctioning body and a sponsor would be assured success from the start. In the beginning an outline of series rules was drawn up to attract like minded drivers to join in the effort. Once the association was formed, a final version was drafted with all the members input. The Rules along with the association's proposed plan to organize and launch the series was sent to several manufacturers soliciting sponsorship, including Mazda, Toyota, Nissan, and of course Renault. All except Renault either rejected the proposal or did not respond.

Renault not only responded, they jumped at the chance, since they were quite familiar with the concept of a one-make series. ARR and Renault negotiated to finalize a format competing with the Le Car R5. Due to classic concerns of track owners and sanctioning bodies, Renault was reluctant to agree to the driver's points system. Their counter proposal was to run an East Coast series in lieu of nationwide. Since most of the interested drivers were from the East Coast, and the amount of travel required was somewhat limited, this was accepted by the drivers.

Once Renault was on board, John Bishop, President of IMSA, was approached to sanction the series. He was very skeptical at first. A meeting was held on April 4, 1981 at Road Atlanta between Bishop, B Clar of Renault and Coleman representing the drivers. Renault offered a major support program and ARR would guarantee a minimum of twenty-five entrants for the first race. Bishop, still skeptical, agreed to sanction the series. Coleman even suggested there might be as many as fifty, if Renault and IMSA didn't revise the proposed series rules to a point the majority of drivers would pull out before then. Still skeptical he agreed, convinced by Renault's commitment and the driver's assurances of a full field for the inaugural race. Exactly one year to the date on April 4, 1982 the inaugural race was held at Road Atlanta. 51 Le Cars started the race.<ref>Beginnings and History per Steve Coleman, Founder of The Renault Cup Series</ref>

One notable driver to come from the series was Parker Johnstone, he took runner-up spot on his debut season in 1984 and would virtually dominate the series following that.<ref>Parker Johnstone - A Sponsors Dream Driver</ref><ref>INDYLIGHTS: Parker Johnstone Teams With Dorricott Racing</ref>

IMSA Showroom Stock

In 1985, IMSA would undergo a major rules reformat while still retaining its sponsor, therefore it was still known as its sponsor's moniker. This time, the series was more restricted to current models that is being available in dealerships throughout the US, other than that, the series had rules and race format that were similar to the RS series, being an endurance series. At the end of the 1987 season, Champion stepped down as sponsor and was replaced by Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, therefore, the series was renamed IMSA Firestone Firehawk Endurance Championship or commonly known as Firehawk Series, after the brand of Firehawk performance tires.

Total prize purses, year-end point funds and manufacturer contingency awards in 1991 amount up to $1 million. As required by the sponsor, all cars are required to use its own Firehawk SZ or Firehawk SV tires which can be shaved to racing depth or the all season Firehawk GTX, Bosch and Kendall Oil are also associate sponsors. Most of the drivers that compete in the series are amateurs or semi professional, with a few made their living out of competing in the series, Dorsey Schroeder and John Andretti are one of the few drivers that cut their teeth in the series.<ref name=showroom>Template:Citation/core{{#if:|}}</ref> Meetings usually attracts over ninety entries and are often televised and duration of the race varies from one 2 hour and a helf event to one 24 hour race. The series would solder on until 1998, by then known as Speedvision Cup.

There are three classes, sorted in order from the highest

IMSA Bridgestone Supercar Championship

IMSA also hosted the Bridgestone Supercar Championship, sponsored by the sister brand of Firestone, Bridgestone, which was for medium to higher end sports cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911 Turbo, Mazda RX-7, Nissan 300ZX or Lotus Esprit and was run between 1991 up until 1995. Usually a support race to the GT races, running at 30 minutes which were televised, the series attracted some of the well known professional drivers such as Hans Joachim Stuck, Hurley Haywood, Elliot Forbes-Robinson and Paul Newman.<ref>International Motor Sport Association</ref> with a total prize fund of $555,555 for the 1992 season. All cars had to run on roadgoing Bridgestone Potenza RE71 tires which are trimmed to semi-racing depth and during a wet race, cars race on full depth.<ref name=showroom/>

The series was not without controversy, mainly for the all composite Consulier GTP as it was bordering on the showroom stock ethos as well as being criticised for having little common with cars that the general public see on public road.<ref name=showroom/> The GTP, debuted with just four silver Consulier Series II GTP at Lime Rock in 1991, despite having a 2.2 liter turbo with about 195 hp (145 kW) connected to a 5 speed gearbox, weighing at 2,100 lb (950 kg), the car took a pole to chequered flag finish easily outpaced the other more powerful but heavier cars, especially if they were piloted by talented and more experienced drivers such as Hurley Haywood in a factory Porsche, Boris Said's Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette, and Jim Minnaker in a factory ZR1 Corvette. It was subsequently announced by IMSA felt that it was not in the best interests of the series to allow the Consulier to win, so as a result they added a 300 lb (140 kg) weight penalty to the GTP before being barred from the series at the end of the season despite taking a runner up spot..

World Sports Racer

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External links

Template:American Le Mans Series