Simply titled, IMSA 1969-1989, this recently published book gives the inside story of how John Bishop built one of the world’s greatest sports car racing series. In truth, there can be little doubt that the two decades of IMSA racing covered by this book includes some of the most exciting, dynamic and varied motor racing of all time in the United States. The IMSA series also gave birth to the mighty GTP class of race cars which thrilled the crowds up and down the country.
This is perhaps a good time to introduce the authors, Mitch Bishop and Mark Raffauf. Mitch Bishop is the son of IMSA founder John Bishop. Over the last 40+ years, Mitch has built a successful career as a marketing, sales, and software engineering leader in the Silicon Valley. He is still an active racer today and sits on the leadership council for the International Motor Racing Research Centre in Watkins Glen, New York. Mark Raffauf started working for IMSA in 1974 when he was just 16, and is now its longest-serving employee. He is a former president of IMSA, and he’s still there today as senior director of race operations. Through the many iterations of IMSA and Grand-Am since then, he’s held IMSA positions related to overall management, technical and car regulation development and enforcement, as well as event, sporting, and racing operations. You would be hard-pressed to find two more qualified individuals to compile the history and growth of IMSA, an organisation that delivered some of the most exciting motorsport in America.
The book starts with a bit of history about the Bishop family and how this led through years of study, a world war, to a career in the reserves, and eventually to aircraft design and an interest in motor racing. In those early years, there were many young men who wanted to race but the industry lacked the organisation to set up and run motor races. Through the establishment of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) at the end of the War, races were organised but with few purpose-built race tracks available in the US, many events were held on public roads. This soon became too dangerous, and it was clear that some concerted event organisation on a nation-wide basis was needed, and quickly.
The authors take the reader through the development of an early, more formal structure for those drivers who wished to move from amateur to professional status. Through a partnership between Bill France Sr. and John Bishop, these two pioneers did more for the burgeoning sport that was in need of not only some structure, but also safety guidelines, legalities relating to events, public relations and promotion, and much more. In 1969, the International Motor Sport Association (IMSA) was formed with three employees, Bill France, John and Peggy Bishop, and so the wheels of the new motorsport organisation began to turn with some purpose.
The content of the book stretches from the mid-1950s through to 1989, at which point IMSA was sold to another group out of Tampa, Florida. With the sale of IMSA, a chapter in America’s motorsport history was also brought to a close. And so it is, that a publication of this nature, size and importance has been long overdue…until now.
Authors Bishop and Raffauf have, over twelve chapters, compiled the history of those twenty years, delving into the SCCA years, IMSA beginnings, the GT years, the Turbo era, the American Challenge Series, GTP, drugs money and racing, the Porsche 962 and the Nissan years. Included too is the account of the cooperation between IMSA and the FIA as these two bodies looked to find common ground on regulations and vehicle specifications. They cover all the important constituent parts of the IMSA years, both big and small, and the book is rounded off with an Epilogue about John and Peggy Bishop, Appendices with IMSA champions by class, and Acknowledgements.
The authors have given careful consideration to the image selection, as the images are firstly of excellent quality and secondly, they have been sensitively placed so as to accurately support the text. Porsche enthusiasts can rest assured, with the massive success of Porsche cars during the two-decade period covered, that the Stuttgart manufacturer is well represented.
There are many motor racing enthusiasts across the pond in Europe and elsewhere, who know little of American racing activities. The internet has changed that in recent times to some extent, but to have a book of this standing and completeness on one’s bookshelf, is a necessity for most motorsport followers. This is a sizeable book, so it is no lightweight, but that just tells you that it is a comprehensive history of the period covered. Make sure you get yourself a copy!
The inside story of how John Bishop built the world’s greatest sports car racing series
Mitch Bishop and Mark Raffauf
Jim France, IMSA Chairman, NASCAR Vice Chairman
26 January 2019
310 x 280 mm (landscape), hardback with dust jacket
370 photographs, including colour
£80.00 UK, $100.00 US & Canada
Octane Press and good bookshops
Written by: Glen Smale
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