IMSA co-founder John Bishop passes away at 87

John Bishop, who oversaw the growth of US sportscar racing through the 1970s and '80s as head of the IMSA sanctioning body, has died at the age of 87.

Bishop and wife Peggy co-founded IMSA - which stands for International Motor Sports Association - in 1969 after a cold call from NASCAR boss Bill France Sr.

France wanted to establish a road racing sanctioning body alongside NASCAR and thought that Bishop, who was head of the Sports Car Club of America, was the man to run it.

A move into sportscar racing on the creation of the IMSA GT Championship for 1971 was the turning point for the organisation.

The new sportscar series attracted sponsorship for 1972 from the RJ Reynolds Camel cigarette brand and incorporated the US sportscar classics at Sebring and Daytona into its schedule from 1973 and '75 respectively.

The influx of manufacturers spiraled on the creation of the GTP class for 1981: Porsche, Jaguar, Nissan, Ford, Chevrolet, BMW and Toyota would all compete at the highest level in the series under Bishop's tenure.

Bishop sold IMSA at the end of arguably its most successful season, at least in terms of manufacturer participation, in 1989 following heart surgery two years previously.

As executive director of the SCCA from 1958, Bishop oversaw its amateur and professional series and, in the 1960s, its organisation of the US world sportscar championship rounds.

Bishop retained an involvement in sportscar racing in North America after selling IMSA and became a commissioner of the Grand-Am series in the 2000s.

Jim France, son of Bill Sr and chairman of IMSA today in its capacity as the sanctioning body of the United SportsCar Championship, said: "John's passing evokes grand memories of another era of sportscar racing in North America.

"We have lost a man who, once upon a time, was a sportscar pioneer. Over the years, he became a giant in our industry."

Bishop, whose wife predeceased him, is survived by one son.

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