The IMSA (International Motor Sport Association) sportscar series began as a championship proper in 1971. It was based in the United States, but attracted an increasingly international field during its twenty-seven year history.
Originally open to GT and touring cars, it first admitted sports prototypes in 1981. These cars came to dominate, with manufacturers such as Porsche and Jaguar vying for the title. It was disbanded in 1998, although it has existed as a sanctioning body for sportscar racing in the States since 2001. It has recently re-emerged as a race organising body.
The series, at different times, ran the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours, as well as other major sportscar events.
Many female drivers took part over the years, particularly in the middle period during the 1980s. Some, such as Lyn St. James and Janet Guthrie, combined IMSA competition with open-wheel racing, and a few, such as Patty Moise and Kat Teasdale, also drove in NASCAR competition. Below are short profiles of some of the other female entrants. Deborah Gregg now has her own post, as does Bonnie Henn and Ashley Freiberg.
Sarah Cattaneo - finished second in the 2017 IMSA Continental Tire Challenge, driving a Nissan Altima. She and her team-mate Owen Trinkler won two races, at Virginia and Road Atlanta. In 2016, Sarah also won two races in the Challenge, driving a Honda Civic with Trinkler. They were 17th in the championship, which was their seventh run in it together. They began in 2010 with a Mini, before moving to the Civic in 2012. As well as IMSA, Sarah has raced in the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge, in the Civic, finishing seventh overall. She also made some guest appearances in the 2012 Canadian Touring Car Championship in a Mini.
Alice Graves - raced in IMSA in 1983 and 1984. Her car was a Porsche 914/6, which she shared with Richard Graves. In 1983, they entered the Road America, Pocono and Daytona Finale rounds, with a best finish of 17th at Pocono. In 1984, she raced at Mid-Ohio, Road America and Pocono. Their best finish was 25th at Mid-Ohio. The Porsche was not overly competitive, compared to newer 962s and Aston Martins. Details of Alice’s other activities are not forthcoming.
Linda Ludemann - raced in IMSA between 1987 and 1990, alongside Scott Schubot. She competed in the Lights class. Initially, they drove a Tiga GT285, with a best finish of eighth at Watkins Glen. They were also 16th at Daytona. The car was changed for a Spice SE88P in 1988, which was less reliable, and gave them a highest position of 15th, at San Antonio and Lime Rock. Reliability improved in 1989, and Linda became the first woman to win the Lights class, after victories at West Palm Beach, San Antonio, Topeka and Sears Point. They were also top-ten finishers three times, with a high point of sixth. Linda only did a part-season in 1990, still in the Spice, but proved she was still competitive with an eighth at Miami and a class win at Topeka. She did not compete in 1991.
Bobbee Nylander – competed in IMSA events between 1977 and 1982. The biggest race of her career was probably the 1977 Sebring 12 Hours, in which she drove a Porsche 911 with Gary Nylander and Michael Hammond. They were thirteenth, and third in the GTU class. Her best individual result was ninth, in the 1978 Sears Point IMSA race. Bobbee always drove a Porsche 911, and was a regular in the Riverside 6 Hours between 1979 and 1982.
Vicki Smith - raced sportscars up to international level in the early 1980s. In 1981, she had finished the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours in an AMC AMX. Her team-mates were Bob Lee, Tom Alan Marx and Sam Miller. In 1982, she was 25th at Daytona, driving a Porsche 911 and 22nd at Sebring. The Klaus Haus team, consisting of Vicki, Klaus Bitterauf and Scott Flanders, contested several more IMSA events that year, with a best finish of 17th, at Charlotte. Driving an Audi 80 for a different team, Vicki was 16th with Edgar Doren and Peter Aschenbrenner. During the 1983 season, she switched between the Klaus Haus Porsche and a Pontiac Firebird. Her best finish was another 16th, at Miami, in the Firebird. She continued in 1984, driving different cars, but was not as successful. She is now involved in classic motorcycle events.
Margie Smith-Haas - active in motorsport between 1978 and 1995. Mostly, she raced a Porsche 924 GTR as part of a team with Paul, her husband. Her first big race was the Road America IMSA round in 1979, but she really came into the spotlight in 1983, when she shared a Toyota Celica with Gene Hackman, for the Riverside Six Hours. They were 16th, fifth in class. After that, she joined the World Sportscar Championship, driving a series of Porsches in Europe and the USA. Her time there was plagued with mechanical difficulties, and she collected many DNFs. Her two attempts at Le Mans, in 1984 and 1985, driving a Porsche and a BMW respectively, also ended in retirement. A consolation was her sixth in class at Daytona in 1984, driving a Porsche 911 RSR. In 1988, she joined the American City Racing League, and won the title in 1994.
Aurora Straus - raced in the 2017 IMSA Continental Tire Challenge. Her car was a Porsche Cayman. She shared it with Connor Bloum, and they were eleventh in the championship. Her best finish was fourth, at Daytona, and she was almost always in the top ten. This was her second season in the series, having done two races in 2016. This made her, at 17, the youngest driver ever in the Challenge. She was eighth in her first race at Watkins Glen. Previously, she raced a Mazda MX-5 in 2015 and 2016, as well as undergoing driver training. She came straight into cars with no karting experience.
Janis Taylor - raced sportscars in the 1980s, in the USA. Her first year of major competition was 1980, when she drove an Alfa Romeo Alfetta in the Sebring 12 Hours. She and her two team-mates, including her husband, Del, did not finish. For the next two seasons, she mostly drove a Chevron in IMSA events, including the Sebring 12 Hours, which she entered four times between 1980 and 1985. Her second attempt, in 1981, was as a solo driver, as her two team-mates did not start. In 1984, she switched to a Pontiac Firebird owned by Walter Johnston as her main car. Her best result was 21st, in the 1984 Riverside 6 Hours.
Kristin Treager - intended to compete in the IMSA GT3 Cup in 2014, driving a Porsche 997 GT3. She first entered the championship in 2013, taking part in the Road Atlanta and Road America meetings. Her results were three third places, and one seventh. She had a chance of the title until the final round, when she was hit by another driver and wrote off her car. In 2013, she also raced Porsches in the Porsche Club of America’s Cup Car Challenge, winning the GTC4 class. Previously, she has won other club championships, in Porsches, production stock cars and Bandolero racing. She also appears on motoring –related TV programmes in the USA. In 2014, she did not race, having lost her main sponsor due to the large costs incurred after her crash. She concentrated on driver tuition and TV work after 2015.
(Image source unknown)