HSR’s State of the Sport

HSR’s State of the Sport


There is no question that 2024 marks the beginning of the next chapter of the nearly 50-year history and substantial growth of Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) as one of the nation’s most successful vintage and historic motorsports organizations.

Beginning its third year under IMSA ownership, HSR enters this season with a new president and a record-setting season-opening event already in the books. At the same time, HSR’s leadership has renewed its commitment to the sanctioning body’s core values as a premier vintage and historic sports car racing organization while keeping a focused eye on the future.

Experienced motorsports executive Chris Ward was named HSR president in January, taking over the top leadership position of the sanctioning body from David Hinton, who guided HSR through its most recent period of success for more than a decade. One of Hinton’s milestone achievements was steering the sale of HSR to IMSA in early 2022 following the passing of his ownership partners George Tuma in 2018 and Jim Pace two years later.

“For starters, we have to thank David Hinton, the late George Tuma and Jim Pace and all of HSR’s ownership predecessors who worked tirelessly to create the successful and robust vintage and historic sports car racing organization we have the privilege and responsibility of operating today,” Ward said. “Their decades of vision and hard work, combined now with leadership of John Doonan, Ed Bennett and the entire team at IMSA, has us well positioned for our next phase of growth and success, which is already underway in 2024.”

A major and the most recent sign of HSR’s strength was a record entry of more than 120 cars for this month’s season opening Spring Fling at Sebring International Raceway. HSR’s opener since 2019, the previous editions of the Spring Fling rarely broke into the three-figure car-count range. The entries were a diverse group of competitors and cars spanning the last 65 years.

“The next era is well underway, and it begins with a renewed commitment to ensure HSR remains the authentic home for vintage and historic sports car racing in North America,” Ward said. “The competitors, cars, on-track action and off-track camaraderie at Sebring clearly indicated to me in my first race with HSR that our competitors and members as well fully embrace these core values that will remain at the foundation of everything we do at HSR.”

After a successful marketing career that included co-founding an experiential agency based in Detroit focusing on marketing, PR and events for luxury brands such as Audi, Bombardier, Bentley Motors and Breitling, Ward called on that expertise in a move to professional sports car racing.

In the same more than 10-year time span Tuma, Pace and Hinton were building HSR, Ward became a fixture in the IMSA paddock for over a decade. He was a key part of the management team operating the IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series from 2014 through last year, ascending to the position of Head of Motorsport for Lamborghini North America in 2017. Among his vast managerial responsibilities was the oversight of all day-to-day operations of the Super Trofeo series and the introduction of the GT3 platform to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Under Ward’s leadership, Super Trofeo reached unprecedented growth, particularly in recent years. Record fields and capacity grids have been commonplace and new car orders for pending seasons of competition have frequently been early sell outs.

Despite the obvious differences in the series, Ward sees similar growth possibilities to the Super Trofeo success that will keep HSR on its current upward trajectory.

“The opportunities for HSR are boundless,” Ward said. “We will never dismiss the stated core values on which HSR was founded but rather will continue to expand and further the mission of original founders with some creative promotions, enhanced event experiences and just some good old fashion cool, common-sense and unique ideas.”

HSR Classics Endurance Events – A Vision for the Future

One of the many milestone achievements of the Hinton-led HSR era was the introduction of the instantly popular HSR Classic Daytona 24 Hour in 2014. The immediate success of the race, which is a full twice-around-the-clock tribute race to the Rolex 24, led to the introduction of the HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour a year later and the HSR Classic Watkins Glen 6 Hour just last year.

“The Classic 24 was one of the major developments that first put HSR on IMSA’s radar a decade ago,” said IMSA President John Doonan. “My predecessor Scott Atherton was a fan of the concept from the beginning, and just a couple years after that inaugural event 10 years ago, IMSA signed on as the presenting sponsor of the Classic 24. It was the beginning of a partnership that culminated with the sale to IMSA in early 2022, and now we eagerly enter into the next phase of growth highly optimistic for the future.”

Discussions are already underway about expanding the “HSR Classics” events into motoring festivals as well as the events being combined into a vintage and historic endurance championship on the annual HSR calendar. A contemporary similarity could be a vintage and historic version of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, but that isn’t the only possibility for the HSR Classics to have a modern-day connection.

“Pairing up the HSR Classics tribute races with some of the current-day editions of these established events is definitely on the table,” Ward said. “The model would be a two-weekend celebration spanning 10 days of vintage and historic on-track action to start with and then building into the contemporary running of a 12-Hour or 6-Hour race. We are even looking at the possibility of adding a 10-hour HSR Classics event that would be the perfect addition to both a vintage and historic endurance series and an ideal two-weekend celebration of all things past and present sports car racing.”

The combination HSR Classics and modern-day edition race festivals would go well beyond the on-track competition.

“There are endless possibilities for promotional extensions such as car clubs and corrals, manufacturer and vendor midways, driver and newsmaker fan forums and car show events similar to the popular ‘cars and coffee’ programs taking place all around the country. These are just some of the enhancements that could be added to these expanded festivals of sports car racing.”

Ward points to the Classic Sebring 12 Hour as another example of how the festival atmosphere of a two-weekend vintage/historic contemporary festival could also celebrate other popular and historic pastimes. In addition to HSR sports car competition, the Classic Sebring “Pistons and Props” also celebrates the rich aeronautical history of Hendricks Field, the WWII training airfield on which the annual 12 Hours of Sebring is run. A fly-in and display of vintage military and other classic aircraft is a co-feature of the Classic Sebring.

“We have discussed taking the Classic Sebring concept further by pairing up with food and wine festivals, art shows and even film festivals where the racing takes place during the day and theme-connected movies show on certain nights,” Ward said. “Even other historic government-related sectors – such as military jeeps and other specialty vehicles for example – could make for an entertaining festival when combined with HSR racing.”

Activation Opportunities Abound – On and Off Track

In addition to boosting the profile and format of the HSR Classics, HSR and IMSA are looking at adding some promotional enhancements to all of their events.

“Why not feature marques and grand marshals at every race on the tour,” Ward asks? “We are looking at these ‘pluses’ for all races to make the across-the-board experience more enjoyable from top to bottom for our competitors and fans.”

And speaking of fans, both Doonan and Ward are well aware that both the fan base and HSR’s competitor and member base is growing and evolving.

“In the past, both fans and competitors seem to have age paired with the cars,” Ward said. “There now appears to be a new generation showing interest, and it is directly related to the introduction of more modern machinery retired from competition. I even saw firsthand at Sebring how the sound of our Historic Stock Cars lights up the faces of our younger fans in attendance. We are on the cusp right now of a new generation of historic and vintage racing fans.”

And as the audience changes so does the criteria for what makes up a car suitable and eligible for HSR competition in addition to being of interest to our competitors.

“The generally regarded and arbitrary line between defining vintage and historic has been considered 1972, but we do feel that is and has to be a moving target,” Ward said. “What current generations consider vintage and historic cars is certainly different than perhaps what people from the baby boomer generation would consider vintage and historic. It is all based on when you were born and what you grew up watching, what you were a fan of, and that is obviously going to change from generation to generation.”

The changing and aging fan and competitor base in some ways has been responsible for some of HSR’s biggest and fastest growing run groups and series. The Group 8 Historic Stock Cars features recognizable Fords, Chevrolets and Toyotas just past their competition prime.

Other popular categories are home to contemporary GT machines recently retired from competition. The steady pipeline of GT3, GT4, TCR and various “Cup” and single make series has seen HSR even introduce a dedicated championship for these cars with the HSR Global GT series.

“There is definitely a place for contemporary racing machines in HSR, but we will continue to adhere to the ‘five-year rule’ which means that no car can be eligible for competition until it is five years passed its year of introduction,” Ward said.

The five-year rule opens the door open for a variety of fast and familiar cars that appeal to fans and competitors alike.

“Just this week I heard a longtime HSR member and competitor who raced a BMW 2002 in the Spring Fling a few weeks ago is purchasing a 2017 Audi RS 3 TCR car,” Ward said. “The reasoning could likely be that we already have a growing group of competitors racing retired TCRs and he can now join the fun with a car that can be readily serviced with an adequate supply of available parts for at least the next decade.”

HSR Prototype Challenge – The New Home for LMP3 Endurance Racing in America

The next modern-day frontier for HSR is addressing the similar supply of contemporary prototypes retired from competition hitting the market each year. Such cars have been race-winning fixtures in HSR for several years, but the stage grew at the recent Spring Fling where a new series for LMP3 cars – the HSR Prototype Challenge presented by IMSA – debuted with a thrilling two-hour race.

“The inaugural HSR Prototype Challenge race, with close racing throughout and a pass for the win coming down to the white flag, was a success but much more work will be done,” Ward said. “Pulling no punches, we didn’t reach the car count we had hoped for but some unique circumstances, such as several LMP3 teams competing at St. Petersburg the same weekend, very likely cost us some entries that would have otherwise been at Sebring. But with a successful first race in the books, we are confident and have all indications that the field will grow exponentially for the next round at the HSR Mitty at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta next month.”

The Mitty, HSR’s original blockbuster event that runs for the 46th time late in April, launches the balance of the HSR racing season and perhaps best typifies the past and present strengths of HSR.

“The HSR Mitty at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta exemplifies exactly what HSR is all about with its outstanding on-track competition and great off-track camaraderie,” Doonan said. “Along with the growing HSR Classics, the Mitty – even as HSR’s oldest event – and the spirit of its competitors is a prime example of what HSR is and will continue to be. We will continue to provide HSR racing teams and families with the best vintage and historic racing experience possible. We are committed to vintage and historic racing and to delivering this unparalleled experience to our amazing families and teams we are honored to have race with us.”

Next up on-track for HSR is indeed the 46th Mity at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, April 25 – 28. More information on the event, which showcases the Cars of Japan as this year’s featured marque, is available at the official event page at 


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