Have you ever heard about the IMSA Camel GT Challenge?
If not, I will tell you. This championship has been created by John Bishop, a man who had worked as an executive for the SCCA, the club for which he wrote a lot of technical rules. At the end of the 60s, the SCCA had to go ahead and decide whether to stay as it was then or make the big step into professional racing. The dissensions between the executive staff were great and times were getting hard. As things did not seem to improve, it seemed to John Bishop that it was the good moment for him to search for a greener pasture. He decided to leave the SCCA and go his own way. He had met Bill France who was looking for someone able to launch a new road racing series. Bill France knew that he was the right man. After thinking of it for a while, he accepted the deal.
He took the time to work entirely on his baby and worked hard to set every rule for his future championship. He was a talented man and was able to deal with every aspect of racing. He managed to do so in a matter of months, devised every rule and he even designed the logo for IMSA. He had set up a small staff and that was it! So the IMSA (International Motor Sport Association) was born in 1969. This series would be a professional road racing series and each competitor would earn price money.
This series was built for FIA GT(group 3 and 4) and Touring(group 1 and 2) cars. This original mix of cars immediately pleased the fans. The series started quietly in 1971 with a large field of amateur and semi-pro racers, and Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood, two American racing legends, won this first race in Danville, Virginia, on their Porsche 914/6.
John Bishop had brought his personal touch and, as soon as 1972, sponsoring from Reynolds Tobacco Inc, raised the series to a professional level. More than 120 entries had been registered by IMSA!
He knew exactly how to manage the different people involved in racing, from drivers to team managers, to sponsors and track directors. From the beginning of his career, he had leart all of the technical skills needed to run a successful series. He knew how to deal with the men that were to work with him. And he did it so well.
GT racing was born in the US and John Bishop had created the series that was going to be the most successful ever in North America. He is a man everyone must remember as a precursor for a new kind of racing. Nothing would be ever the same when he left IMSA in 1990.