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Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational - Pandemonium
We Head Back To The Desert For Fun And Fast Cars.
Apr 1, 2010
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Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational - Pandemonium
Since this is our '68's third trip to SEMA, we decided to have some fun. With the help of the guys at Best of Show Coach Works, we bolted on all the Anvil Auto carbon-fiber parts from our Track Rat project to the Camaro. We even added some vinyl hash marks on the fender. We should point out that the Anvil parts fit great, even without modification.
This year the tire rules were changed, so we had to ditch our Toyo R888s for some Hoosier A6 race tires. Sure, they're DOT legal, but running them on the street isn't a great idea. Luckily, we had an extra set of Forgeline wheels, so we didn't have the headache of mounting tires at the event.
The Monday before SEMA, Baer hosted a Corvette driving school at Spring Mountain. Steven Rupp, Charley Lillard, Mark Stielow, Mary Pozzi, and David Pozzi had a blast, but we later found out that tricks learned in the new Vettes didn't directly translate to our modified classic Camaros we would be driving in the race.
Race day. Here, Nick Licata checks the tire pressure on our '10 SS project car. Licata drove the car 250 miles to the event, beat on it all day, and then drove it home. What's not to love about that? You can also get a look at our new Boze three-piece wheels. They nailed the offset, which enabled us to run 275 tires up front and meaty 315s in the rear.
Brian Finch, of Nashville, Tennessee, enjoyed a big distinction among those who attended the Optima event. He drove his Camaro to Vegas all the way from his driveway. And when the race was over, swapped back to his street tires and drove it home. That's nearly 4,000 miles and a testament to what Pro Touring is all about.
Randy Johnson's Camaro was one sweet-looking second-gen, and he wasn't afraid to throw down hard on the track. With Johnson behind the wheel, the '71 turned in a 2:07.10 on the road track and 45.70 seconds at the autocross.
One thing on our to-do list was dropping in the K&N filter that had been hanging out in the trunk. Since we had a little downtime between events, Licata decided to grab some tools and put it in. Hey, every bit helps!
The first order of business for the day was getting all the cars though tech. Here, Tyler Beauregard makes sure that the brake lights are functioning on Bret Voelkel's Ridetech '68 Camaro. In addition to making sure the cars were street legal, the pit crew also made sure all the cars passed a thorough safety inspection.
After tech there was a driver's meeting where Jimi Day of FM3 Marketing and Cam Douglas of Optima Batteries laid down the rules for the day and explained how all the events were going to flow. The track we would be running was the one marked in red on the big map.
Scott Mock showed up to the race with his fresh and completely badass '69 Sonoco tribute car. This was one of the car's first track outings, so Scott didn't push the Camaro too hard. Then again, even when it's parked it looks like it's going a 100 mph. His best autocross time was a 46.2 second run.
Before any timed runs took place, everyone got to go out on a few parade laps. No passing was allowed and speeds weren't much over 60 mph. While it helped to learn the layout of the track, the slower speeds didn't really make them real practice laps.
Here are some high points in the data:
Sustained cornering of 1.25 g's, balanced left and right turns with higher spikes.
Max Braking g's: .84
Max acceleration g's: .75
Top speed: 118.32 mph.
Low speed: 40 mph.
Brian Finch's Camaro looked great negotiating Spring Mountain's 2.2-mile road course. He did well in all the events, and that consistency gave him a sixth-place overall finish.
Mixed in with the classic iron was also an assortment of newer muscle cars. Chris Fesler brought one of his Fesler/Moss fifth-gens to the race. The car was put in the exhibition category because it was being driven by a pro: namely, Paul Tracy. Showing what a great car, combined with a professional driver can do, Tracy whipped the street tire-shod '10 around the 2.2-mile course in an impressive 1:50.20 seconds.
James Shipka and his wife, Debbie, jump at any excuse to come down from their colder Canadian climate. It's no wonder that when Optima told James Shipka that he could run his '67 in the exhibition class he didn't hesitate to sign up. The Camaro that we featured in the February issue has been getting tweaked at Pozzi Racing, and he could feel the improvement. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, he wasn't able to get a timed road course lap, but he did grab a 45.4 second time slip at the autocross.
Albert Melchior, of Canada, was a member of the group that drove cross-country with Brian Finch. His 555ci big-block sounded like hell unleashed, and when the Anvil Auto-sponsored Camaro left the starting line, it laid down rubber all the way to Turn 1. Sadly, on one the first timed laps, the big-block grenaded, scattering bits of high-end machinery all over the asphalt. Albert isn't sure what went wrong, but the long sweeping turns of Spring Mountain are notoriously hard on oiling systems.
More carnage ensued when Rob Kinnan, of Hot Rod magazine, took an off-track excursion in his Factory-Five roadster kit car, earning him the title "Cupcake" from announcer Chad Reynolds. Kinnan was OK, and the super-cool roadster only suffered minor suspension damage, but his day was over. It's too bad since we were looking forward to spanking him on the autocross course. Knowing Kinnan, he'll be back in action in no time.
Mary Pozzi secured her spot in the competition by winning several of the autocross events held at the Goodguys car shows. In her words, she was "bringing a butter knife to a guided missile fight." But in the end her leaf-spring second-gen proved it could hang with the high-end rides. Her autocross time of 43.4 was one of the fastest, and she managed a 1:57.10 on the road course. Unfortunately, she suffered a transmission linkage problem at the 0-60-0 event and couldn't finish all the required segments.
Pfadt Racing brought out this '10 built by Unrestricted Motorsports. Besides a body kit, a tune, and a few suspension widgets, the Camaro was pretty stock. It was in the exhibition class, but ran a 1:56.00 on the road course and 48.4 at the autocross.
The 0-60-0 event was a fast, but fun, time. A small sensor was suction cupped to the windshield and once the driver launched he accelerated until a red light came on, and then they mashed the brakes. Here, we caught Bret Voekel of Ridetech locking up the brakes on his '68 Velocity Camaro. His best time for the event was 9.5 seconds.
One car favored to do well at this event was the '69 owned by Charley Lillard. The Camaro, affectionately known as Jackass, was featured on our October cover. With an LS9 underhood and carbon ceramic ZR1 brakes, we knew the car was a strong contender, but it proved even tougher competition with professional wheelman Mark Stielow at the helm. Stielow built the Camaro and flogged the Daytona Yellow F-body around the track in 1:49.30 seconds. That time combined with his other scores secured him a third place overall finish.
Nick Licata had a blast flinging our '10 SS through the autocross cones. The frantic nature of the day didn't even allow us the luxury of walking the course, but Licata still managed to run the cones in 46 seconds flat on Nitto NT05 street tires.
We featured this '70 Camaro in the October '09 issue, and we were pretty damn happy to see it being flung around the Spring Mountain track. Mike Yale's F-body is powered by an LS3 and rides on a Detroit Speed suspension. Best time on the 2.2-mile course was 2:03.00. He managed a 48.3 run though the cones.
Ryan Mathews, ex-Craftsman Truck Series driver, and now a go-fast employee and engineer at Detroit Speed really pounded their '69 around the Spring Mountain raceway. He nearly beat the Cobra on the 2.2-mile track and did well enough in the other events to nail down a solid second place overall finish.
Luckily for us, Kyle Tucker, of Detroit Speed, decided to run his '70 Camaro on KDW street tires. Even then he was a force to be reckoned with. What his Camaro lacks in shiny paint, it more than makes up for in performance. He ended up with a score good enough for fifth place overall.
Licata had never been on this track before, so he certainly had a tough task in learning the line with only a few low-speed parade laps. But he still managed a best time of 2:00.04 on the big track. Licata says the handling felt great, but the car felt down on power. We need to hit the track with a laptop to see what's going on, but we suspect the intercooler to the supercharger couldn't keep up with the flogging.
Speaking of cover cars, Larry Callahan brought his freshly finished '68 to the competition. As the owner of pro-touring.com, Callahan felt it was his duty to beat on his Camaro in the driving events. The '68 is still being sorted out, and Callahan had a scare when an oiling issue caused him to lose traction and spin off into the desert. Callahan just shrugged it off as part of racing and more reason to keep working and beating hard on his Camaro.
If you've ever wondered what's it's like to drive a power rack-and-pinion car without a working power steering pump, then we'll tell ya; it sucks! Ours died on the first timed lap, but Rupp grunted and cussed his way through the event for a fifth-place finish. Later we replaced the pump and ran a time that would have been good enough for second place. Oh well, that's the way racing works.
JR Granatelli brought out his sweet '10 to compete. His car was freshly done and not quite sorted out, so they skipped doing the road course, but managed a respectable 47.7 on the autocross.
We never had a chance. This "real-deal" '66 Cobra was bought new and street driven until 1970 when it moved to "occasional race" duty. With a 427 FE dry-sump engine putting 600 hp to the rear wheels, this 2,500-pound car dominated every event. Add in the fact that it was driven by five-time National Solo II champion and autocross school founder, Jim McKamey, and the rest of us were relegated to fighting for second place. You have to give props to anyone who would flog a real Cobra with under 11,000 original miles on the clock. Congrats to both the owner, Bruce Cambern, and McKamey on the win!
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