50 Years of IMSA Racing
Each year the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion — a historical racing event and car show held at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca — recognizes a featured automotive marque or association passing a particular milestone. The 2019 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion featured 50 years of International Motor Sports Association racing history. A golden anniversary for a racing association or series is quite an achievement, so this year’s celebration was a fitting tribute to IMSA, founded by John Bishop and Bill France Jr.
This year at the Motorsports Reunion a special display showcased some of the most significant cars from IMSA racing history, while on track several special race groups feature IMSA cars and current or former IMSA drivers. “Celebrating the achievements and history of IMSA on the occasion of its 50th anniversary is fitting for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion,” commented Timothy McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. “IMSA and our facility have long been intertwined,” proudly noted McGrane. What follows are some of the most important cars from IMSA’s 50-year history.
1991 Spice Acura Camel GTP Lights Prototype
Powered by a modified Acura NSX engine, this Comptech Racing Spice Acura prototype won three consecutive manufacturer’s championships and three consecutive driver’s championship in the IMSA Camel GTP Lights series from 1991–93. This car also won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1991 and 1992, followed by the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1993.
2009 Acura ARX-02A Le Mans Prototype P1
The Acura ARX-02A was campaigned by both DeFerran Motorsports and Patron Highcroft Racing, and this car debuted at the 2009 12 Hours of Sebring with Scott Dixon taking pole position for DeFerran Motorsports. The Acura ARX-02A went on to score eight ALMS wins in 2009 with Acura winning the manufacturer’s championship and Patron Highcroft Racing winning the driver’s championship ahead of DeFerran Motorsports.
2019 Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype International
The latest endurance racing prototype from Acura, the ARX-05 debuted with legendary Team Penske in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The ARX-05 scored six podium finishes in 2018 and has already won two races and had seven podium finishes in 2019.
Audi RS 3 LMS
Compass Racing won both the manufacturer’s championship and the driver’s championship in the TCR class of the 2018 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, driving the Audi RS 3 LMS. Compass Racing also finished second and fourth in the 2018 driver’s championship.
Audi R8 LMP
One of the most dominant cars ever in the American Le Mans Series, the Audi R8 LMP won six consecutive ALMS championships from 2000–2005. The Audi R8 LMP also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three consecutive years from 2000–2002 and added two more Le Mans victories in 2004 and 2005.
Audi R8 LMS GT3
The Audi R8 LMS GT3 debuted at the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, and Alex Job Racing won the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona driving the Audi R8 LMS GT3. Magnus Racing won the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the Audi R8 LMS GT3, and went on to win the 2016 GTD manufacturer’s championship.
BMW 3.0 CSL
Based on the production 3.0 CS, the BMW 3.0 CSL was very successful in European Touring Car racing and this car was one of five raced by BMW of North American in the 1975 and 1976 IMSA Camel GT series in Group 4 specification. In 1976 this chassis was raced as the No. 59 car driven by Peter Gregg, Brian Redman and John Fitzpatrick — winners of the 24 Hours of Daytona.
BMW V12 LMR
Built to compete at the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans and for the 1999 American Le Mans Series, the BMW V12 LMR was developed jointly with BMW F1 partner Williams F1. This BMW V12 LMR debuted at the 1999 12 Hours of Sebring driven by Tom Kristensen, JJ Lehto and Jorg Muller; it took the overall victory. Another V12 LMR won the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans, giving BMW its first overall victory at Le Mans.
BMW M8 GTE
Competing in its second season of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the BMW M8 GTE debuted at the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona. In its first season, the BMW M8 GTE won two consecutive races at Virginia International Raceway and Laguna Seca, and in 2019 Connor de Phillipi, Augusto Farfus, Colton Herta and Philipp Eng won the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
2001 Northstar Le Mans Prototype
Cadillac returned to the top level of sports car racing for the first time since the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans with introduction of the Northstar Le Mans Prototype. The Northstar LMP is powered by a 4.0-liter Northstar twin-turbo V8 engine producing 570 horsepower. The car weighs a mere 2,019 pounds.
2016 Cadillac DPi-V.R
Cadillac returned to racing after a 14-year break with the Cadillac DPi-V.R, winning its first race at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Powered by a 5.5-liter V8 engine producing 600 horsepower, the Cadillac DPi-V.R has continued to be very competitive, taking its third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona win in 2019.
Toyota Eagle MkIII GTP
Built and campaigned by Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers, the Toyota Eagle MkIII GTP raced in the ultra-competitive IMSA Grand Touring Prototype class. From 1991–1993, the Toyota Eagle MkIII GTP dominated IMSA GTP racing, winning 21 of 27 races and earning Juan Manuel Fangio II two consecutive driver’s championships. A test bed for new technology, the Toyota Eagle MkIII GTP is powered by a turbocharged 2.1-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 750 horsepower. It has a carbon fiber composite monocoque, and carbon-kevlar-nomex honeycomb composite bodywork.
Lexus Daytona Prototype
Chip Ganassi Racing debuted the Lexus Riley Prototype in 2004 in the Grand-American Rolex Sports Car Series and competed until the end of the 2009 season. The first season, drivers Scott Pruett and Max Papis won the team and driver’s championships, and between 2004 and 2009 Ganassi Racing won the Rolex 24 at Daytona three times along with two driver’s championships.
Lexus RC F GT3
Lexus returned to sports car racing in 2016 with the RC F GT3 based on the RC / RC F platform designed by Toyota Customizing and Development in Yokohama, Japan. Powered by a 5.4-liter Lexus V8 engine combined with a 6-speed Xtrac sequential gearbox with paddle shifters, the RC F GT3 debuted at the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona and competes in the GTD class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.