1971 is the first racing season for the IMSA Camel GT Challenge. The choice made by John Bishop immediately proved to be the good one as races were very hard fought. The races scenario remained the same throughout the season as it was a Corvette-Porsche 911 or 914 battle.
This very first year has been interesting enough to attract a great sponsor in the name of Reynolds Tobacco Inc, which was quite stunned by the way the organisation was mastered. This major step ahead followed Reynolds Tobacco's interest in brand new road racing series. John Bishop had to convince, and he did it very well. The IMSA series was sportscar road racing future in the US. Every member of the staff was dedicated to the new IMSA organisation and true professional members. So Reynolds Tobacco decided to sponsorize the Talladega event, and it was a complete success for the Bishop organization. They had won a true racing sponsor. It was their first victory.
3 victories for Peter Gregg-Hurley Haywood on their Porsche 914/6 et 3 victories for Dave Heinz partnered by either Or Costanzo or Don Yenko on a Chevrolet Corvette. It is interesting to notice that the Corvette won on the fast speedways and the Porsche on the road racing circuit.
The first ever race would take place in Danville, Virginia and it was a hard victory for Peter Gregg-Hurley Haywood who finished one lap ahead of Dave Heinz, who had led the first stages of the race but had to pit twice for fuel. The Corvette's advantage on the track was to be nullified by this fact. When the Porsche pitted for fuel, Heinz took the lead but for 11 laps, because he had to pit for the second time. At that moment, he lost the race because his stop lasted about 2m 30s.
He started 48s behind the Porsche and began to gain on the German car, but exhaustion was to play its part and he spinned, losing a 15s more and damaging his car. He had to stop again, so the race was over and he finished second.
Third was the Porsche 914/6 driven by Ralph Meaney, followed by two Porsche 911 for Pete Harrison and Jack Rabold.
On 15th May, the big iron Corvette took a revenge and easily won the race on the Superspeedway of Talladega, Dave Heinz took 1st place in front of the Gregg-Haywood Porsche 914/6 by one lap. Third was one IMSA star to become, Michael Keyser on a Porsche 911.
Same players shoot again at Charlotte Motor Speedway as Dave Heinz-Or Costanzo won the race, defeating Peter Gregg-Hurley Haywood by one lap for the 3 Hour event, third was Bruce Jennings on a Porsche 911, just another well renowned racing driver.
At Bridgehampton, the Gregg-Haywood Porsche 914/6 will defeat a Corvette driven by Rod Harris co-driving with a certain John Paul, one of the future road racing star for the next years.
Summit Point will see a Porsche victory again for Gregg-Haywood ending first in front of the Porsche 911S driven by Bruce Jennings and Michael Keyser-Bob Beasley similar car. It was the first 1-2-3 for the German make. Not the last one!
The Daytona finale will see, as expected, the domination of the big V8s, and Dave Heinz-Don Yenko will end up 1st in front of the Chevrolet Camaro driven by Tom Nehl-Jim Fitzgerald and Bill Cuddy's Porsche 911S. Gregg-Haywood will not do better than 4th, but they had won the Championship.
The 1971 season was a success for the IMSA organisation, but the biggest one was undoubtedly the fact that they had gained the complete sponsorship from Reynold's Tobacco Inc, and the next season was to be called the IMSA Camel GT Challenge. It was an enormous step ahead and the first recognition from a major sponsor. That would boost the series for the future, and at the end of 1971, the entry for 1972 had reached a stunning total of 120.
A lot of great drivers already were a part of the consistant field, and you could see Charlie Kemp, Phil Currin, Jim Fitzgerald, George Alderman and many others. They were to be the men that made IMSA, as they competed in a very large amount of events, during many racing seasons. They were joined by many others, American and European drivers, those men would soon write the legend of IMSA.