LAKEVILLE — Fifty years ago, Bob Bailey crossed the finish line at Lime Rock Park with victory in the first-ever International Motor Sports Association race.

Bailey will return to Lime Rock this weekend, July 15-16, to be honored as Grand Marshal of IMSA’s FCP Euro Northeast Grand Prix, a race that marks 50 years since Bailey’s victory.

“[IMSA] brought some truly superior professional teams, cars and drivers to Lime Rock, which I think really drew the crowd,” Bailey said. “You had some of the best drivers in the country and teams coming to race there. It really was a major boost for Lime Rock. There were a lot of great memories from that race in 1972.”

IMSA began in 1969 as an affiliate of the amateur racing organization Sports Car Club of America. With IMSA being a professional team, many of these riders were finally racing for the money.

“The money was something that a lot of racers hadn’t had before in sports car racing because they came from the amateur side,” said Greg Rickes, who was a sound announcer at Lime Rock for 50 year. “IMSA has really accelerated the growth of professional road racing.”

Bailey, who started racing aged 18, was 29 when he won the first IMSA race at Lime Rock Park by driving a Porsche 911 ST across the finish line.

“It was truly one of the biggest wins of my career,” Bailey said. “There are a lot of great memories not just of that race but of Lime Rock. It’s played such a big part of my life since I went there with my dad when I was 12.

Bailey said Lime Rock was a unique track compared to others on the circuit. With its twists and turns, the track favored its small car over the faster ones.

“It was a very unique race track in those days and a very tough race track,” Bailey said. “It was only about two miles long. But there was a lot of difference in terrain, uphill and downhill. It was very difficult to drive on this track. We were also very lucky. Many faster cars broke down. There were 15 who didn’t finish out of 35. It’s unusual to have so many cars broken down in a race like this.

Today, IMSA is considered by motor racing enthusiasts to be one of the highest levels of sports car racing in the country. Upon returning to Lime Rock Park, fans will see Porsches, Corvettes, Aston Martins, BMWs and Lamborghinis, among other high-end sports cars, speed along the track.

“In the United States, it’s the highest level of sports car racing,” Rickes said. “There are several other series, but IMSA in terms of notoriety and quality of competition is really the top of the race. It is a great tradition to be able to continue for 50 years and to be able to look back.

If the results go in a certain direction, viewers could see things come full circle with the race from 50 years ago.

“Porsche, who won 50 years ago, is one of the main contenders to win again this year,” Rickes said.

And for Bailey, it would be a welcome result as he returns to the track to celebrate a place that has meant a lot in his life – his car company, Racemark, which makes racing safety equipment, started with assistance at Lime Rock track builder and general manager John Fitch.

“It’s just a great culmination of memories of Lime Rock playing such a big part in my life and my business career,” Bailey said. “It was just great, so I’m really looking forward to the weekend.”


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