The 2010s may rival the 1980s as the most significant decade in the history of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA).
As the decade comes to an end, IMSA is firmly established as a world leader in sports car racing and the undisputed premier sports car sanctioning body in North America. There have been countless memorable moments over the past 10 years, and we’ll take a look at the top 20 in a four-part series beginning with Nos. 20-16.
20. Taylor Brothers, Angelelli, Gordon Win Debut Race for Daytona Prototype international (DPi)
Rolex 24 At Daytona – Jan. 28, 2017
There was so much historical significance to the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona and its outcome. It was the debut race for the new Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race car, ushering a new era for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The race came down to a thrilling and somewhat controversial late-race lead change in which Ricky Taylor, driving the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for his father’s Wayne Taylor Racing team, and Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi made contact in Turn 1. The contact sent the No. 5 off course and the No. 10 into the record books.
It made brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor first-time Rolex 24 winners. It made co-driver Max Angelelli a two-time Rolex 24 winner in what was the final race of his illustrious driving career. And it also added another crown jewel to the trophy case of four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon.
19. WeatherTech Becomes New Entitlement Partner in Surprise Announcement
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – Aug. 8, 2015
The midsummer IMSA event weekend at Road America has become synonymous with the annual State of the Series presentation over the past several years. It’s when schedules for the following season are revealed along with the announcement of other significant news and developments.
In 2015, the State of the Series was not held onsite at Road America, but instead at the Osthoff Resort a few miles away in Elkhart Lake. And while that year’s presentation did include schedule announcements, the big news was the introduction of automotive accessories leader, WeatherTech, as the new entitlement partner of what would be known as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in a multiyear agreement effective with the start of the 2016 season. In a sport where secrets are rarely kept, this news managed to stay under wraps right up until its announcement.
18. Porsche 911 RSR Takes Overall Victory in Rain-Shortened Motul Petit Le Mans
Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta – Oct. 4, 2015
Mother Nature played a starring role in the most improbable overall victory in WeatherTech Championship history. It happened on the first weekend of October 2015 in the finale of the second WeatherTech Championship season at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Torrential rains plagued what was scheduled to be a 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans race around the 2.54-mile Georgia road course. Conditions were treacherous from the drop of the green flag, leading to multiple and lengthy full-course caution periods. As a result, the Prototype class cars that normally finished many laps ahead of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class could not pull away from the field.
With conditions continuing to deteriorate and nightfall rapidly approaching, the call for the checkered flag came from race control with seven hours and 51 minutes completed. And crossing the finish line first was the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR GTLM entry co-driven by Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz.
17. One and Only GRAND-AM/ALMS Combined Weekend Provides Glimpse Into #TheFuture
Road America – Aug. 10-11, 2013
#TheFuture became a trending hashtag in sports car circles in 2012 and 2013 as the historic merger between the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series approached. When the merger was announced in September 2012, company officials declared both series would run one final season separate from each other before combining at the start of 2014.
The GRAND-AM series had a 12-race season in 2013 while the ALMS contested a 10-race campaign. Three racetracks – Circuit of The Americas, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta – hosted both GRAND-AM and ALMS races on separate weekends that year.
Road America, meanwhile, put both series on the same weekend for the only time and provided a glimpse into #TheFuture on Aug. 10-11, 2013. The history-making event was commemorated in a photo opportunity featuring cars from both series intermingled with each other.
The GRAND-AM race that Saturday was won overall by Brendon Hartley and Scott Mayer in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Ford-Riley DP, with Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana winning the GT race in the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 and Joel Miller and Tristan Nunez taking the GX class win in the No. 00 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8.
The next day, Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf piloted the No. 6 Muscle Milk Racing HPD prototype to the LMP1 and overall victory in the ALMS race, with Simon Pagenaud and Scott Tucker winning in LMP2, Bruno Junqueira and Duncan Ende winning in PC, Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goossens scoring the maiden GT victory for the factory Dodge Viper program and Spencer Pumpelly and Nelson Canache Jr. winning the GTC class.
16. 60th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Brings ALMS/FIA WEC Together
Sebring International Raceway – March 17, 2012
The milestone 60th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts was doubly intriguing, as the 2012 event featured not only the American Le Mans and its five classes but also was the debut race for the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and its four classes.
A total of 64 cars competed in the race on that St. Paddy’s day across the nine classes. The overall victory went to the No. 2 Audi Sport Team Joest R18 TDI shared by Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello in the WEC LMP1 class, while Ryan Dalziel, Enzo Potolicchio and Stephane Sarrazin won the WEC LMP2 class.
Level 5 Motorsports co-drivers Scott Tucker, Joao Barbosa and Christophe Bouchut were the highest-finishing ALMS team (fourth overall) and won the ALMS P2 class in the Level 5 Motorsports Honda ARX-03b prototype. Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Steven Kane won the ALMS P1 class in the Mazda-powered Lola, with CORE autosport and co-drivers E.J. Viso, Alex Popow and Burt Frisselle taking ALMS PC class honors.
Dirk Mueller, Joey Hand and Jonathan Summerton were in the highest-finishing GT car in the race, winning the ALMS GT class in the No. 56 BMW Team RLL M3 GT2. Andrea Bertolini, Olivier Beretta and Marco Cioci claimed the WEC LMGTE Pro class in the No. 71 Ferrari, with Christian Ried, Gianluca Roda and Paolo Roberti winning WEC LMGTE Am in the No. 88 Porsche. The ALMS GTC win went to Alex Job Racing Porsche co-drivers Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell and Dion von Moltke.
Word is, the podium celebrations are still continuing at Sebring even as we speak.