In June 1996, Watkins Glen International race track officials and community leaders began considering the best way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of racing in Watkins Glen, approaching in 1998. John Saunders, then president of Watkins Glen International and today president of the International Speedway Corp., proposed that an addition be built to the Watkins Glen Public Library to allow for the growth and development of the library’s small but excellent collection of books on racing history worldwide.
The committee embraced the idea, seeing the new wing as a destination for racing enthusiasts who visit the village and a resource for the growing number of historians of the sport.
At the fund-raising kickoff in September 1996, the project was dedicated to John Bishop, the most respected leader in the history of road racing in America. He was honored for his key role in the creation of the International Motor Racing Research Center.
The International Motor Racing Research Center, re-configured to operate independently from the public library, opened in June 1999. The entire Motor Racing Collection from the public library was transferred to the IMRRC at that time.
Racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart was there for the celebration.
“There are many great automotive and racing museums around the world,” the three-time World Champion said as the honored guest at the gala opening. “But what has been created at Watkins Glen, a center for archives and real research, is truly unique and a tremendous asset to the whole racing community.”
The IMRRC is dedicated to John Bishop in recognition of his role in its formation. Bishop, founder of the race sanctioning organization IMSA, served as chairman of the Center’s Governing Council from its inception through 2004 and remained an active Council member and Chairman Emeritus until his death on June 5, 2014. He also served as chairman of the 2014 Sponsorship Team campaign. He was the first commissioner of the Grand American Road Racing Association and former executive director of the Sports Car Club of America. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America on Aug. 6, 2014.