We are just weeks away from the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada, which follows immediately after the SEMA Show. And the 2015 Ultimate Street Car Association series has ended nearly where it began, in California. The ninth and final qualifier took place October 10-11 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. While the typical pony cars tend to rule the roost, there was a healthy dose of Corvettes as well – many of which were near (or on) the podium. Fontana happens to be near Vette’s primary HQ, so we swung by to check it out.
If you are not familiar, the OUSCI is an event to which there is no comparison. It combines a road rally, design judging, hot laps on a road course, timed runs on an autocross course, and finally a speed-stop exercise to fully evaluate each vehicle. Optima is searching for the “ultimate street car” after all, so street manners, reliability, aesthetics and all-around performance are all taken into account. If a car breaks down on the road rally, it gets zero points in the category, which will make you stop and think before adding that next mod or making some last minute changes. Same goes for the design portion. Ripping every bit of unnecessary weight out of the interior could seriously cost you. Yes, sir, these are registered and insured street cars just like you might drive to work (well maybe only on a nice day).
The USCA divides cars and trucks into four categories: GTV, GTS, GTL, and GT. In the GTV class, Chris Smith’s yellow ’72 Corvette was only a few steps behind big boys like SCCA champ Mary Pozzi and perennial contender Kyle Tucker from Detroit Speed. Smith took Sixth overall out of 38. Unfortunately Kimmo Nevalainen’s ’65 didn’t fair as well, having issues with the road rally, which carried over into the autocross and speed-stop. The GTS class was literally dominated by late model Corvettes starting with Todd Rumpke’s ’06 Z06, which took second place. Todd was the fastest out on the track and right on Brian Hobaugh’s heals on the autocross. Hobaugh brought his 2003 Corvette Z06 to play, which already has an invite to the big show from a prior event, and took 10th place after taking a zero in the road rally and hot lap. Carrie Willhoff’s 2015 Corvette Z06 took Third place, Mike Ryan’s ’97 took Fifth, followed by Gregg Blundell’s ’02 and Ron Myers’ ’02. Kanan Gubins and Ryan Thacker both showed off the capabilities of their C6s, but had mechanical issues that cost them dearly. Rick Hoback’s ’99 Corvette suffered the same fate. In the GTL class, Rich Willhoff took First place in his ’06 Corvette Z06 by dominating each performance category. Karl Dunn’s ’02 Z06 took Fourth, and Chris Gonzalez’s ’70 was just two spots behind. Both cars had some of the higher marks in design, but didn’t top Jane Thurmond’s ’64 Sting Ray – one of the best looking cars in the class (maybe the whole event). Thurmond took Eighth overall. Steve Abbott’s ’04 Z06, Kenneth Allan Mitchell’s ’89 (the lone C4 at the event) and Casey Cronin’s ’72 all had technical problems, landing them at the back of the pack.
When all was said and done, Corvettes earned nine spots to the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational out of 67 invitations. The total field included over 370 cars and trucks. The remaining cars will be selected from the SEMA Show by the Optima crew. Stay tuned for more!