In September 1996, the International Motor Sports Group purchased the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA). On March 14, of the following year IMSA became the Professional Sportscar Racing, Incorporated. The sanctioning body focused on converting the growing popularity of sports cars racing into a solid fan base and developing long-term marketing partnerships. Two of Professional Sportscar Racing’s major partners were Virgin Interactive, a technology and entertainment company and the petroleum giant Exxon.

Championships were contested for two major categories – World SportsCars and GTS, which consists of three classes.

  • World SporsCars (WSC) – These are open cockpit, two-seat prototypes powered by production-based engines. Five-liter motors are limited to two valves per cylinder, whereas a four-liter powerplant may be equipped with four valves per cylinder. Rotary engines are also permitted, but the series does not allow turbocharging. These engine options produce approximately 675-horsepower. The chassis used in the championship are manufactured by Ferrari, Riley & Scott, Spice and Courage.
  • GTS-1 – This is the fastest of the three GTS categories. The cars are two-wheel drive-production-based vehicles. Tube frame chassis cars are powered by a normally aspirated engine with a displacement between 3.5 to 6.0-liters. Unibody vehicles are allowed to compete with an 8.0-liter normally aspirated engine or a 4.0-liter turbocharged motor. The Porsche 911 GT1, Panoz GTR-1, Dodge Viper GTS-R and Ford Mustang Cobra are examples of cars that race in this class.
  • GTS-2 – Introduced in 1997, this category is for two and four-wheel drive vehicles with a unibody chassis. Eligible powerplants include a 4.0-liter turbocharged engine to an 8.0-liter normally aspirated motor. The Porsche 911 GT2 Turbo is the most common car in this group.
  • GTS-3 – The best subscribed division is GTS-3, which is home to the BMW 3 and Porsche 993 Carrera RSR. A wide range of engine options may be used with these production-based two-wheel-drive vehicles depending on chassis design. Tube frame cars are limited to engines between 2.0 and 3.8-liter powerplants. On the other hand, a vehicle using a unibody chassis is allowed a 3.8-liter motor or a 3.0-liter turbocharged engine.

The eleven race season started in the first weekend of February and ended in late October. The WSC and GTS categories completed in separate contests with the exception of three events – Rolex 24 at Daytona, Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring and First Union Six Hours at the Glen.

  • Daytona International Speedway - Rolex 24 at Daytona
  • Sebring International Raceway – Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring
  • Road Atlanta – NAPA Grand Prix of Atlanta
  • Lime Rock Park – Dodge Dealers Grand Prix
  • Watkins Glen International – First Union Six Hours at the Glen
  • Sears Point Raceway – California Grand Prix
  • Mosport Park – Mosport Festival
  • Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Sportscar Grand Prix
  • Pikes Peak International Raceway – Festival of Road Racing
  • Sebring International Raceway – NAPA Sebring Octoberfest
  • Laguna Seca Raceway – Visa Sports Car Championship

Round seven of the 1997 Exxon World SportsCar Championship was held at Mosport Park. Competitors raced around the ten turn 2.459-mile road course in a two-hour contest.

The first lap of round seven for the 1997 Exxon World SportsCar Championship at Mosport Park. Leading the field of thirteen entrants into corner one is the pole-winning No. 43 Acxiom Racing Ferrari 333 SP driven by Ron Fellows. Behind Fellows in the No. 16 Dyson Racing Riley & Scott MK III, which started in row two in the fourth spot and is piloted by Butch Leitzinger. Behind the leaders is the Moretti Racing Ferrari.
Since General Motors pulled its support from the Trans Am series local favourite Ron Fellows has been a free agent. As luck would have it, the Morgan Racing team was in need of a replacement as one of the team’s drivers, Eliseo Salazar, was not available. Fellows would share the No. 43 Ferrari 333 SP with Rob Morgan. Fellows put the car on the pole. The pair led the most laps and they scored their first WSC victory.
The No. 16 Riley & Scott MK III was shared by Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver. They won the previous race at Sears Point and received an additional 50-lbs of ballast. Weaver topped the timesheets in practice but was only fourth fastest in qualifying. Leitzinger started the race and moved into first-place during the stops. Weaver was third during his final stint, but a miscue by Dibos Racing allowed him to finish second.
Another team to benefit from the Dibos Racing fuel miscalculation was Doyle Racing. The defending WSC champion, Wayne Taylor, shared the No. 1 Riley & Scott MK III with Eric Van de Poole. They were gridded sixth for the start of the two-hour contest and led laps 55-59. Despite the oil pressure warning light flashing on the Oldsmobile Aurora engine, the car finished the race in the third position.
Moretti Racing entered two Ferrari 333 SP. Sharing the No. 27 Ferrari were Didier Theys and team principal, Gianpiero Moretti. In the qualifying session, Theys recorded the third-fastest time. The duo remained in contention during the race, but an issue with the radio was the team’s undoing. Theys was having problems hearing the team and pitted just after the track went green. The pair would finish fourth.
Jim Downing’s latest Mazda Kudzu made its North American debut in round seven at Mosport Park. The first outing for the car was at Le Mans in June, where the team finished seventeenth overall despite some issues. The new Kudzu was built with a stronger tub to handle the four-rotor motor. The car also uses bigger tires and wheels and a stronger transmission. Downing and his teammate Barry Waddell finished eighth.
As the race neared its conclusion, the No. 3 Dibos Racing Ferrari 333 SP of team owner Eduardo Dibos and Fermin Velez was in the lead. The car, which qualified fifth overall, moved into the top stop when most teams pitted for the final time. The Dibos team decided to gamble on fuel consumption and left Velez on the track. Unfortunately for them, the Ferrari ran out of gas with two laps remaining and they finished fifth.

11Fellows / MorganFerrari 333 SPC.A.R.S.86-
24Weaver / LeitzingerRiley & Scott Mk IIIDyson Racing86-
36Taylor / Van De PoeleRiley & Scott Mk IIIDoyle Racing86-
43Moretti / TheysFerrari 333 SPMoretti Racing86-
55Velez / DibosFerrari 333 SPDibos Racing84Fuel
69Jones / BentleyRiley & Scott Mk IIIMSI81-
712Field / SmithSpiceIntersport80-
811Waddell / DowningMazda KudzuDowning Atlanta75-
92Montermini / HermannFerrari 333 SPMoretti Racing71Suspension
1010Mucha / GuimontCourage C41Courage Competition62-
118Pace / JochamowitzRiley & Scott Mk IIITeam Peru48Engine
127Elliott Forbes-RobinsonRiley & Scott Mk IIIDyson Racing40Transmission
1313Edd DavinArgoDavin Racing1Steering

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