Throughout the year, OPTIMA‘s search for the ultimate street car takes place on some well known race tracks around the country: Laguna Seca, Daytona, Road America, Portland… the list had expanded for 2014 and was very exciting. As drivers competed on the national level, the goal for each driver was one and the same: to get the invitation to OPTIMAs Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), presented by K&N Filters.
The competition became so big that there was a need to organize the participants, and the Ultimate Street Car Association (USCA) was formed last year to keep things organized and legitimate.
The USCA is a sanctioned body created to make the competition fun, establish some rules, and to put on ten events throughout the year for all years, all makes, and all models to compete. Winners get that invitation to the OUSCI, as well as other hand-picked winners from the SEMA Show, and they all duke it out at the end of the year following SEMA.
We brought you the competition last year from Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, where Brian Hobaugh, Mark Stielow, and Danny Popp topped the winners list, respectively. This year the competition was a little closer to the annual automotive convention, held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS), and saw about 100 competitors – more than any other year – to battle it out and see if they can topple the king of the mountain.
The Four Events
The four events that make up OUSCI are all equally important and count heavily towards the overall rankings. While the competition is mostly about power, speed, handling, and control, there is one other vital element that keeps the competition true to its own nature: street legal.
In order to win the event, the Lingenfelter Performance is responsible for judging the overall Performance and Design challenge. This is where form takes precedence over function, as the cars must have a street-worthy interior in order to score high in points.
Bare roll bars, steel floor pans sans carpets, and race car-like interiors don’t cut it with this competition. While racing seats and harnesses are important to the competition, the car needs to be a street driven car with full registration and street manners. If the car can’t handle the drive to the track without being on a trailer, then the car isn’t streetable and the competitor might as well chalk it up to a weekend of fun and go home. Getting no points for this part of the competition means problems for anyone hoping to be on the podium.
The three other events in the competition have three specific goals: showing speed, showing handling, and showing vehicle control. The Hot Lap Challenge is hosted by BF Goodrich, and takes place out on the big track at LVMS. This is where competitors will hit their top speed for the weekend, and navigate around the open track for their best time at speed.
The track has several turns that put driver and vehicle to the test, and the driver who learns the track the quickest and puts down the best time will score the win for this part of the competition. But to win the Hot Lap competition isn’t necessarily an indication of who will win overall; statistically, winners of the Hot Lap aren’t always at the top of the Ridetech sponsored Street Challenge Autocross.
Drivers do have the opportunity to make adjustments in the pits between rounds and events, but when a car is set up to go fast and make high speed turns, the autocross is not the place to go high speeds and make high speed turns. The speeds are up there, granted, but the turns are tighter, and track is smaller, and the competition is fierce – putting a race car and it’s driver to the test while they navigate a track that is also more narrow than the big track.
This year, the autocross took on a new element: mirrored, side-by-side racing. Each competitor lined up on the course, either right or left, and they raced against another car on a mirrored track, which not only made the event more competitive, but it gave each driver a marker to beat – pushing them that much harder to get to the finish.
Back out on the big track is where the fourth of these events took place, the Wilwood Speed Stop Challenge is another control event that requires the driver to know how to not only control the car in the tight turns, but to put the car in a “stop box” with speed and accuracy. Running out of the box awards the not-so-coveted DNF (did not finish) for that event, so stopping inside the box without pushing cones at the end was the ultimate goal.
The Winners, And The Table Of Champions
The individual winners of the four events were:
Wilwood Speed Stop Challenge
- First Place: 2006 Mitsubishi Evo RS (Brandon Ranvek)
- Second Place: 2011 Porsche 911TT (Betim Berisha)
- Third Place: 2012 Porsche 911 Turbo S (Larry Woo)
Ridetech Street Challenge Autocross
- First place: 2006 Mitsubishi Evo RS (Brandon Ranvek)
- Second place: 2003 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (Danny Popp)
- Third place: 1965 Chevrolet Corvette (Brian Hobaugh)
BF Goodrich Hot Lap Challenge
- First place: 2003 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (Danny Popp)
- Second place: 2010 Chevy Camaro (Ryan Mathews)
- Third place: 2013 Chevrolet Camaro (Bryan Johnson)
Lingenfelter Performance and Design Challenge
- First place: 1964 Buick Riviera (JF Launier)
- Second place: 1959 Chevrolet Corvette (Alan Palmer)
- Third place: 1964 Chevrolet Corvette (Dan Livezey)
As you check out the list of winners, you can see that even though Brandon Ranvek took the top spot on two events, Danny Popp pulled off the overall win with a first in the Hot Lap Challenge and a second in the Street Challenge Autocross. Lower scores in the other events can take all the wind out of a sail, and only those who score higher on all events can get the overall win.
We do want to take a moment here to thank the entire staff of volunteers, organizers, hosts, and participants for making this event special. Without all of these incredible people, this event cannot take place, and the level of organization was top notch.
For any gearhead who has been at an event that was full of fail, it was likely because it didn’t have a group of talented and knowledgeable people like those who help make the OUSCI and USCA such a success. Our hats go off to those individuals who greeted us all with a smile, and took the time to let the competitors know that they “done good!”
Congratulations to all participants, win or not, it was a great event and it only fuels the fires of competition for next year. You can see more of the competition on MAVTV when it airs again, check your local broadcasts, and the gallery below will give you a little eye candy to tide you over.