Jim McIlvaine
March 7, 2016

The third season of OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, began on the weekend of February 27t-28 at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, California. What started out as a one-off event following the SEMA show has now grown into a 10-event national series, complete with a TV contract, sponsors, and hundreds of competitors vying for the “Ultimate Street Car” title.

Mustangs have been a part of the series from the very start and several hit the track at Thunderhill, competing in the GTV class with an invitation to the 2016 SEMA Show and the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational on the line. The GTV class features vehicles built before 1990 that weigh at least 3,200 pounds, which makes it an ideal fit for Pro-Touring ponycars.

The competition throughout the field was tight all weekend, with 100 potential points available for each segment. When the dust settled, Arthur Mercado's '65 Mustang GT finished 15th in the GTV class.

Blue ovals more than held their own in the 24-car class, notching two top-ten finishes (as well as a sixth-place finish for a Mercury Zephyr wagon) and three inside the top-15. Series veteran, Mike Maier, led the way with a fourth-place finish in his '66 Mustang. Maier actually tied third-place Efrain Diaz's '69 Camaro, but lost the tiebreaker based on his score in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge (it is a street car event and you will get penalized if all of your lights aren't functioning).

The competition on the track was just as tight, as Maier was edged out for the win in the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial by just .171 seconds. The margin of victory was even smaller in the Detroit Speed Autocross, where Maier was bested by just .096 seconds!

The emphasis on these events is a safe and fun experience with friendly competition. Complimentary driving instructors are also offered at every event, making it very welcoming to first-time participants. If you'd like to check out an upcoming event, be sure to visit www.DriveOPTIMA.com.

Jason Anthony was another first-time competitor and this series makes it really easy for people to get involved. Complimentary driving instructors are offered at every event.
Mike Maier's '66 Mustang is always a top contender in the series—well-built and well-driven. Even among the late-model competition, Maier's Mustang more than holds its own, as evidenced by his fourth-place overall finish in the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial. Maier finished fourth in the GTV class.
This series requires all vehicles to be street-legal and prove their roadworthiness on the Lucas Oil Road Rally. Steve Murphy's '66 Mustang is a newcomer to the series, but made a big impression, with a runner-up overall finish in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge, boosting him to a ninth-place finish in the GTV class.

GTV Class (pre-1990, 3200+ pounds)

1. Jake Rozelle, 1969 Camaro
2. Chad Ryker, 1968 Camaro
3. Efrain Diaz, 1969 Camaro

GTS Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters and AWD vehicles)

1. Brian Hobaugh, 2003 Corvette
2. Carrie Willhoff, 2015 Corvette
3. Lynn Proctor, 2005 Dodge Viper

GT Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-wheel drive sedans, four-seater coupes, trucks, etc...)

1. Ken Thwaits, 2014 Camaro
2. Jordan Priestley, 2011 Camaro
3. Jordan Priestley, 2016 Camaro

GTL Class (anything under 3200 pounds)

1. Rich Willhoff, 2006 Corvette
2. Duke Langley, 2002 Corvette
3. Alexandra Zust, 2005 Lotus Elise

K&N Spirit of the Event Award - Sean Fogli, 1968 Ford F100