LEXINGTON — While the action took place on the track last weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the Morrow County racetrack also had a big announcement, as a new series was announced.
During a press conference Friday morning, it was announced that International Motor Sports Association racing would come to Mid-Ohio the weekend of May 4-6, 2018.
Headlining the event will be the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The series, which began in 2014, was created by a merger of two former Mid-Ohio staples: the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series. There previously had been 13 Grand-Am and 11 ALMS events at Mid-Ohio. Also returning will be the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge for the first time since 2013, when it served as a support race for Grand-Am.
“I know for a fact that there are thousands of people in the Mid-Ohio region who will be truly thrilled,” said Mid-Ohio president Craig Rust, who added that Mid-Ohio had reached a three-year agreement with IMSA through 2020. “It’s exciting. This track has been out of sports car racing and I think fans will be thrilled. I think we’ll fill the place up.”
IMSA president Scott Atherton noted that, with the 2014 merger, some venues had to be cut from the schedule. However, they had been looking for an opportunity to return to the Mid-Ohio.
“It was a confluence of the merger that delayed our return here,” he said. “This was one we gnashed our teeth about because we wanted it on schedule. When the opportunity to came to make that call, we jumped at the opportunity. Mid-Ohio and IMSA belong together. This is our first new venue since the merger in 2014 because of a combination of circumstances such as the ongoing appeal of our stakeholders to come back to Mid-Ohio.”
Especially happy about the announcement were a pair of prominent Ohio race team owners in Bobby Rahal and Michael Shank.
“I was particularly happy when Scott confided in me,” said Rahal. “When I heard the news, I was pleased. I’m thrilled and anticipate being here for us.”
Shank concurred, saying, “I’m grateful they got this done. It means a ton to us.”
Atherton added that the main races will be the standard length of two hours and forty minutes, noting that IMSA action will dominate that weekend.
“It’ll be an all-IMSA weekend,” he said. “We’ll fill up the paddocks and fans will fill up all the remaining space.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS