IMSA Enjoys Growth in 2018

Magnus Audi leads BMW and ORECA LMP2 at Road America
The competition among the WeatherTech Championship's three classes was shown to an increased number of television and livestream viewers in 2018. | Photo: Aaron Durant / The Apex

The battle for several championships plus perfect weather ensured the 2018 Motul Petit Le Mans was a success while the yearlong participation of new cars and storied teams helped make the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season a lucrative one.

After darting past a competitor into the Corkscrew for the win at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2017, Renger van der Zande executed another move of the year in 2018 as he stole the win at Petit in the final turns when the leader ran out of fuel, avoiding a winless season for Wayne Taylor Racing.

The victory changing hands after 10 hours of racing had nothing to do with the Prototype championship but with the powerless No. 5 Cadillac DPi-V.R from Action Express Racing dropping to fourth in the final seconds of the event after leading the great majority of the closing lap, the competitive nature of IMSA’s premier championship couldn’t be ignored.

“We had more hospitality and partner activation than ever before and have had an outpouring of positive feedback from our fan base,” said Road Atlanta President Geoff Lee. “It was a wildly successful race week and we’re so thankful to our fans, the teams, IMSA and to the Road Atlanta staff for making this such a memorable one.”

Though the new pairings of Acura and Team Penske as well as Mazda and Team Joest combined to win just a single race in 2018, their presence on the grid, in the field and on the spotter guide was felt. With popular drivers like Helio Castroneves, Oliver Jarvis and Rene Rast involved and given the successful past for Penske and Joest, fans were given a slew of new reasons to follow the WeatherTech Championship.

Acura Team Penske DPi cars on Mid-Ohio grid
Team Penske locked out the front row of the grid for IMSA’s return to Mid-Ohio in May 2018. | Photo: Aaron Durant / The Apex

From the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona through the championship-deciding finale in Georgia, the WeatherTech Championship was shown to 8.5 million unique television viewers. While that marks a 10-percent increase year over year, 1.6 million hours of IMSA events were consumed via livestreaming on IMSA.com, the IMSA Mobile App and the FOX Sports GO app for a growth of 25 percent in that category.

By the season finale, 5.6 million total visitors had loaded IMSA’s website in 2018 — a 32-percent increase. On social media, the sanctioning body benefitted from 10 percent more fan engagement in the form of comments, likes and shares.

Further growth is anticipated for the 2019 season, aided by IMSA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, a new official tire partnership with Michelin and a new media rights deal with NBC Sports that will give the WeatherTech Championship a considerable increase in network television exposure.

The year will be kicked off by the Rolex 24 in January, for which infield parking is already sold out.

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