Auto Racing Notebook : IMSA President Has Mixed Emotions About Proposed Championship

United Press International

The thought of running a world championship series with the Group C sports cars from Europe is at once tantalizing and dangerous to International Motor Sports Assn. President John Bishop.

Bishop and IMSA have proposed to the Federation International Automobile that the prototype sports cars conduct a series of races to determine a true world champion. Currently, there are two championship circuits--the Group C series in Europe and IMSA in the United States.

Many drivers, however, such as Hans Stuck and Klaus Ludwig, drive in both series. In addition, manufacturers such as Porsche and Jaguar run factory-backed entries on both circuits.

The prospect of a series of races to determine a “true” world champion is tantalizing because of the publicity and sponsor backing such an endeavor likely would bring. It is threatening to IMSA because such a series likely would take the sport car circuit’s top teams out of the country on a more frequent basis, and perhaps reduce the number of races in the United States.


Most teams run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but return to the states and concentrate on IMSA afterwards.

“That (a world championshp) is a concept we proposed to the FIA,” Bishop said. “If they’re going to call it a world championship it really should be an intercontinental type of championship instead of having one per country.Because if it’s one per country, it will always be a European championship. If they put one or two per continent, then it will be a world championship.”

On Thanksgiving weekend in Tampa, Fla., there is a scheduled race for both Group C and IMSA cars, which would mark the first time the two circuits have competed against each other. The fact the race is being held in the U.S. makes it another chance for IMSA to gain publicity, although the circuit already is quite popular in Florida.

IMSA runs four races in the state--the 24 Hours of Daytona, the Miami Grand Prix, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Grand Prix of Palm Beach.


“It’s not necessarily in our interest to watch our guys go all over the world and compete all season long,” Bishop said. “To go to Le Mans once a year is one thing, but why should we want to chase all our top teams around the world?”

Also, Bishop is not convinced the FIA is the best sanctioning body in the world.

“If you look on it (the FIA) as an omnipotent, errorless, all wise, stable sanctioning body for the world, that’s one thing,” he said. “I learned quite quickly it’s quite like an international (Sports Car Club of America), that the people making decisions aren’t necessarily the best people to do so.They’re appointed on a political or a social basis. Thcx aren’t always the best people to make the decisions. I’m not knocking the SCCA, they’re just not people who have an investment in the body they’re making decisions for.”

The addition of the Tom Walkinshaw Jaguar team this year has brought new attention to Camel GT racing, and the eight-race winning streak of Nissan driver Geoff Brabham also had IMSA racing in the national spotlight.

“I think that in the annals of road racing, sports car racing, the world is going to look back on this era of Camel GT prototype racing as the golden age,” Bishop said. “It certainly has drawn the support of more manufacturers to experiment with their high-tech ability than any other world championship in my recollection.” Along pit road:

--Bill Elliott will try to tighten his grip on first place in the Winston Cup championship standings in Sunday’s Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro, N.C. The race is the last short-track event of the NASCAR season. Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt, the only two drivers with a chance to overtake Elliott, are short-track specialists and must do well at North Wilkesboro if they want to keep their championship hopes alive.

--Roger Penske driver Danny Sullivan has all but wrapped up his first Indy Car driving title. His victory in the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix last weekend gave him a 25-point lead over two-time defending champion Bobby Rahal with just two races remaining. He will definitely be leading the standings going into the final race of the year at Miami Nov. 6. The most points a driver can pick up in ‘nu one race is 21. The next CART race is at Laguna Seca Raceway Oct. 16.

--Alain Prost’s victory at the Portugese Grand Prix moved him past teammate Ayrton Senna into first place in the world championship standings. With three races remaining, Prost has 81 points, five more than Senna. To demonstrate how dominant the McLaren-Honda team of Prost and Senna has been this year, Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger is a distant third with 37 points.