The 1993 season was the last GTP season so far. This concept went to an abrupt end when it came to think about the future. The GTP cars were fast, spectacular and exciting, but the rising costs compelled the IMSA staff to drastically rewrite the rules. They had no other choice, for IMSA's sake.
From the beginnings, the IMSA story has always been a continuous evolution of rules. Sticking to the racers needs, as well as providing the fans with the best competition, was not an easy task. John Bishop knew it perfectly, and he realised that the rules had to be quite evolutive, if you wanted to have good races every time. Domination kills racing, and things had to be adapted to provide some race actions. The 1993 season proved that the GTP category was no more competitive, with an outright domination by Toyota and fields that were getting thinner. It was the time to switch to new rules, but an era was ending.
Copyright Dave Kutz
Back in the good old days, things were pretty much straightforward. The beginnings of the IMSA showed that GT racing was the way to go. A lot of cars, many skilled drivers, and many places to go, the future looked bright, and it eventually lasted for a long time. The series would then evolve quietly, with the IMSA board carefully listening to the team owners and drivers. A perfect mix of semi-pro and amateur drivers would fight it up on a variety of tracks, in different cars. The spectators then became aware of the fact that they enjoyed it. John Bishop had it right : he had crafted a new breed of racing cars. "Racing with a difference" was the moto, and it appealed to a lot of people. The organization remained very family oriented, and every people liked it. John Bishop et all would always be very friendly and help you race. He was the adviser, as well as the leader of the organisation.
The series attracted then many works teams, and things were then becoming much more difficult to manage. But once again, he would always try to balance the rules in order to give a chance to any entrant. What a difficult task! As expected, Porsche was a main factor, but they were challenged by very strong contenders. While Peter Gregg was the most successful driver in his times, Al Holbert switched to Chevrolet in 1976 and 1977 and succeeded in his attempt to defeat the german make. The AAGT cars had been the american spearhead against the Porsche Carreras.
Then the Porsche 935s were introduced and they would dominate for a very long period. The GTX cars were spectacular, but it lead to an outright domination by the turbocharged german machines. Once again, the IMSA faced another challenge. What could be opposed to the turbo cars? The GTP concept was then the answer to this issue. A purpose built prototype, which would be cheaper to maintain, and provide a stiff opposition to the GTX cars. Brian Redman was one of the first drivers involved in the creation of a GTP car. Along with Eric Broadley, the Lola T600 became the class of the field, and he was the 1981 champion. The GTP cars would then dominate the series, but the competition would be very harsh. It turned out that Porsche would later introduce the 962, which proved to be a killer. The cars, with Al Holbert leading, would be on top until 1988, when Nissan took over. It was the first of a series of japanese dominations. Gone were the days of semi-pros fighting against amateurs. It was the time for megabucks works teams crushing the opposition. They would hire the best drivers in the world and drive the private teams away from the top spots. Fields would shrink, as a result, as well as the attendance, in the end. Those highly sophisticated cars had reached a point of no return. The competition was kind of non-existent, in the final year. Toyota was running on its own, and the title was at stake between their drivers. The IMSA GTP series came to an end this way. The IMSA board of direction had no other choice than thinking of a new direction. The new rules would have to be more straightforward, and the costs had to be seriously cut down. The cars would have an open cockpit and use stock block engines.
Copyright J.W Todd(courtsey Racingsportscars)
The new WSC championship would start from scratch, as everything had to get done. Fortunately, many chassis builders had a project in mind, and within a few seasons, fields would again be healthy. The IMSA championship had taken a new direction, and it would last for many years. Meanwhile, the organisation would be sold, and switch hands in a steady way. It had lost one of the most important things it could boast for : its spirit. The competition was not to be driven by passion, but by business. The men who managed IMSA were not as dedicated to auto racing as were John and Peggy Bishop. So things would no more be the same. The spirit of IMSA had definitively flown away, the good old days were over, forever.
A lot of people would miss those bygone days. But some people are willing to revive those exciting years. The IMSA Camel GT series is still alive in our minds. A lot of stories are still to be told. So stay tuned.