Last month’s Motul Petit LeMans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta marked the final race 2023. It was a fitting culmination of a race season that I believe history will consider one of the finest in a long list of IMSA’s greatest moments.
Creating Lasting Impact
Over the past few years, many new developments have occurred in our sport. Perhaps none has had such a widespread impact as the convergence of specifications in the top category with the Automobile Club d’Ouest (ACO), led by the the electrification of new prototypes. Both have had a halo impact on endurance sports car racing worldwide and in North America. Most notably, our sport saw significant progress in environmentally sustainable competition, with the IMSA platform delivering a proving ground for manufacturers to showcase the ultimate expression of their road-going products.
Innovation in our racing community led to arguably the most successful season in the history of IMSA, not just from a sporting perspective but because of the broader environmental and societal impact—a season 268 days long but many years in the making set record after record. At Road Atlanta, for example, we saw an 18% increase in fan attendance, an unsurpassed turn-out for this fabled event in its 26-year history.
IMSA racing generates a ripple effect across the automotive industry and our fan base. We are seeing and setting new benchmarks for every metric we look at. A few examples are capacity grids (often with waitlists), record crowds (sold-out campgrounds and corporate hospitality areas), and triple-digit growth in online viewership, increased marketing partner participation backed up by their multi-year support commitments. Those years of development during the pandemic were challenging. Throughout, all those involved remained steadfast in our collective vision. That commitment is paying off handsomely: we are tapping into the craving for entertainment-driven, cost-effective, and sustainable motorsport and offering a world-class activation platform for our marketing partners.
The 2023 season was full of memorable moments for me, seeing the work of many come to life in very emotional ways.
One cannot forget the staged media shoot for a capacity grid of 62 race cars comprising the new GTPs on their debut and a record number of OEM GT variants on the banks of Daytona International Speedway. A sight impressive enough to make the hairs on my arms stand up. It was an iconic moment to mark the beginning of a new season.
I’ve been incredibly moved by our sport’s growing sense of community. I spent several joyous hours wandering the in-field during Sebring weekend, sharing stories with our passionate fans. This year, fans also saw the docuseries Win the Weekend debut, produced in partnership with Michelin. Our first forays into behind-the-scenes storytelling exceeded all expectations regarding viewership (averaging 1.7 million viewers across the episodes) and engagement of existing fans and those new to IMSA.
Of course, without our marketing partners’ commitment, we cannot go racing—massive gratitude to all who have embraced IMSA as THE place to showcase new products. The activation level at The Sahlen Six Hours of The Glen was impressive, with rows of partner displays reminiscent of an automotive show. Race weekends continue to provide a thrilling launch platform to showcase new products.
Embracing Our Legacy
Both new and historic partnerships shaped several landmark moments in 2023. The introduction of North America’s first electrified endurance sports cars and the return of GTP nomenclature was notable. After a nine-year hiatus, we returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first-time hybrid-powered cars raced competitively at the Brickyard. Next September, we return with what promises to be a blockbuster six-hour endurance race, joining our four established Michelin Endurance Cup races, with our fans once again camping in the infield.
What better way to celebrate the season just concluded than sitting down with two legends of the sport, Scott Pruett and Hurley Haywood? We gathered for a moment of quiet reflection before their induction into the inaugural IMSA Hall of Fame. Hurley and Scott have significantly influenced our sport and remain ambassadors. Both have been at many races this season to witness firsthand how endurance motorsport is transforming.
“When I look back at how IMSA has grown since the first race at VIR, it is barely believable,” noted Hurley, “The new GTP and GT cars look wonderful and have leading-edge technology. As IMSA did in 1971, the current leadership team chose a path and did not waver from that mission. It was an honor to stand with my fellow inductees alive and passed.” I’ll pass on Hurley’s recognition of the IMSA team during my next all-hands meeting in Daytona, H.Q.
Scott, a stalwart of our sport, shared a similar sentiment: “There are those incredible, cherished, and unforgettable moments in my 50-year racing career. My first win, my first Championship, my first Rolex 24-Hr win, my first Le Mans win, my first IndyCar win, and the moment I decided to retire from racing following the 2018 Rolex Daytona 24-hour race.”
He added: “That Sunday [at the Hall of Fame Induction] was another one of those moments. I’m humbled and honored to have been inducted into the first IMSA Hall of Fame class 2023. To be included with some of the greats, my heroes, Al Holbert, Peter Greg, and Hurley Hayward, is beyond what I could have imagined. I am truly blessed.”
Trusted Partnerships for the Long Term
As I stand at this juncture, with a memorable 2023 season concluded and excitement already building for 2024, we are fortunate to witness the current crop of cars and drivers and be part of history.
In 2024/25, The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will grow more: Acura, BMW, Cadillac, and Porsche will be joined by a new GTP carfrom Lamborghini. With Aston Martin’s recent announcement, the future continues to look bright in 2025 and beyond. The GT classes will also see increased OEM participation, including in the Michelin Pilot Challenge.
We are so grateful to WeatherTech for their long-term commitment to serve as our entitlement partner through 2030. In addition, Michelin has made their commitment through 2028, and VP Racing Fuels is now committed through 2030. This is incredible stability for our partners, auto manufacturers, teams, drivers, and most importantly – our fans.
Closing its first season, The VP Racing SportsCar Challenge has now developed a reputation as a premier driver development series. Our one-make series comprises the Porsche Carrera Cup, Ferrari Challenge, Lamborghini Trofeo, and Mazda MX-5 Cup and will be joined by the Ford Mustang Challenge in 2024. All these global OEMs trust IMSA with their prized possessions, a humbling responsibility, and a recognition of the value offered by the IMSA Platform.
Balancing our 2023 success while growing into 2024 and beyond is a charter my leadership team and the France family take exceptionally seriously. In many ways, this was a breakthrough year, allowing motorsport to showcase the future of mobility. We recognize our role in serving the automobile industry as a platform in a changing industry and consumer perceptions. We act upon our duty to provide access to our sport for participants from all backgrounds and means, and we understand the responsibility of the IMSA platform to lead by example with practical environmental steps such as solar energy in the paddock and renewal consumables.
We do not rest on our laurels. The extended IMSA team in Daytona is already hard at work planning and preparing for the January 2024 season kick-off in Daytona, starting with extensive sanctioned testing during early December.
I’m grateful daily to be part of this incredible organization as my teammates and I steer it through unprecedented transformation to benefit all our constituents.
Please have a fantastic off-season, and watch our social channels for regular updates.
I’ll see you at the track in Daytona in January!