OverviewIMSA, the International Motor Sports Association, has a long history as the premier sanctioning body for sports car competition in North America. The sanctioning body was founded in 1969 by John Bishop with the assistance of NASCAR President Bill France Sr. Bishop was a 12-year employee of the Sports Car Club of America, who elected to follow his own vision for professional road racing. Bishop and his wife, Peggy, brought a family-style feel to the organization, based in Bridgeport, Conn. Faced without a sanctioning body for Daytona International Speedway’s flagship road race, Jim France put together a team of investors who shared his vision for a new North American sports car championship to carry on the legacy of the series co-founded by his father, Bill France Sr., 30 years earlier. GRAND-AM Road Racing debuted with the 2000 running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and ran its opening three seasons with similar classes to the ALMS. From its birth in 1999, the ALMS proclaimed its racing “For the Fans,” and built a loyal group of followers. The series later undertook a number of initiatives to become recognized as the Global Leader in Green Racing, gaining both national and international recognition for its Green Racing protocols. GRAND-AM took a radical step when it introduced the Daytona Prototype as its lead class beginning in 2003. The new car became popular with both fans and drivers for its durability, affordability and safety. The DP attracted competitors from NASCAR, IndyCar and international sports car racing, especially to GRAND-AM’s marquee events at Daytona, Watkins Glen and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While both series were successful on their own, it became apparent that they would have to combine in order to grow the sport. The two groups announced in Sept. 2012 they would merge into one organization beginning with the 2014 season. Fittingly, it was also announced that the unified series would be sanctioned by IMSA. IMSA’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship opens with a pair of historic events – the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring fueled by Fresh from Florida – building on the vision of John Bishop and Bill France Sr. from 45 years ago.
TUDOR United SportsCar ChampionshipThe premiere series of IMSA is the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship which had its debut in 2014 at Daytona for the Rolex 24. Combining classes of Sports Racing Prototypes and Grand Touring-style production-based cars, the series is centered around the Rolex 24 At Daytona but includes a wide variety of premiere tracks such as Indianapolis and Sebring. In 2003, the former Grand-Am series replaced its Sports Racing Prototypes with new Daytona Prototypes, a custom-built class built specifically for the Rolex Series. These cost-effective race cars offer a relatively economical racing environment in which technology is carefully controlled to ensure close racing and approximate parity between different chassis and engines. For the 2012 season, the Rolex series rolled out Gen-III prototypes with new bodies, engines and chassis. These new chassis were designed to keep costs low while also creating body shapes with more brand characteristics. The new chassis were headlined by Corvette and new Ford prototypes. The GT classes have also been simplified over the years, allowing for a variety of American, European, and Japanese manufacturers to participate including Audi, Chevrolet, Ferrari, BMW, Porsche, Ford and Mazda. Rules allow for tuned production cars or custom tube frame chassis to be used, letting participants save cost if necessary. Daytona Prototypes and GTs usually share the track although do occasionally race separately, typically at shorter circuits.
Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge SeriesOriginally based on a Canadian series before being acquired by Grand-Am, the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (originally known as Grand-Am Cup) is a production-based touring car series. The series is split into two classes known as Grand Sport (GS), intended for large capacity GT-style cars, and Street Tuner (ST), consisting of smaller sedans and coupes, some of which are front-wheel drive. The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge supports some Rolex Series races but also headlines some of its own dates. The series is somewhat comparable to the old Trans Am Series.
Ferrari ChallengeGrand-Am is the sanctioning body behind the North American arm of the international Ferrari Challenge series. Using identical race-tuned Ferraris, the series originally ran the F355 then switched to the 360 Modenas before switching to new F430s in 2006 and the 458 Italia in 2010.