The GT concept was introduced at the end of 1970, as it appeared obvious to John Bishop that the home GT entries, besides the traditional 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and 6 Hours of Watkins Glen, had nowhere else to be raced. This announcement was greeted in a more than favorable way. A new home series was born, and every racer considered entering the fledgling Championship. This very first year saw a non-ending battle between Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood, who drove a Porsche 914/6, and Dave Heinz and Or Costanzo, on a big bore Chevrolet Corvette.
Hurley Haywood was crowned as the first ever IMSA Champion, thanks to his consistancy. He won three races out of six, as well as Peter Gregg, but he edged his teammate by a slight margin, due to better high finishes. Dave Heinz was third, but had to suffer from retirements, as well as three victories, which prevented him from winning overall. This very first season was a trial season, but fields were eclectic, and the race format was designed to equate everyone’s chances for the win. A very special mix of amateurs and semi-pro racers was to be seen at every race.
It was a big step in the right direction. Attracting a host of entrants, this situation resulted in an attraction of manufacturers, track promoters and industry sponsors. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Inc had begun sponsoring the Winston Cup NASCAR series. John Bishop had heard of their would-be interest in sponsoring a new road racing series. John and Peggy Bishop met with the Reynolds Tobacco staff in Winston Salem, and agreed upon having one event backed by them. The Talladega 200 Miler was the race that decided it all. Impressed by the way things were carried out, the representatives took their decision : IMSA and RJ Reynolds Tobacco had an agreement and would do some business in the future.
The very first race happened to take place in Danville, for the Virgina 300 race, at the Virginia International Speedway. Twenty four cars took the green, and the race was a long lasting battle between Peter Gregg’s Porsche 914/6 and Dave Heinz Chevrolet Corvette. The legendary pair of drivers took a first rver victory over the big bore Corvette. It was a mix of GTO, GTU, TO, TU, BS and AS. Entering this first ever race were Amos Johnson, Roger Mandeville, Michael Keyser and Bob Beasley, all of them becoming later IMSA stars.
The next race, held at Talladega, saw the Southern Corvette take the win, shoving its power to the 2,0L Porsche. Co-driven by Or Costanzo, Dave Heinz again took the race honors at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with the Brumos Porsche again taking second. At Bridgehampton, the Porsche 914/6, driven by Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood was back in victory lane, this time edging Rod Harris and rising star John Paul. Summit Point was a Porsche sweep, as the Brumos car won the 250 Mile race over Bruce Jennings, while Michael Keyser and Bob Beasley took a third place. The Daytona Finale was a reverse from the previous race, with Dave Heinz taking the win. He shared the win with Don Yenko, while Tom Nehl and Jim Fitzgerald took a second place, just ahead of Bill Cuddy, who edged Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood, who had their worst result ever in 1971. Hurley Haywood was the 1971 IMSA drivers champion.
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