Jim McIlvaine
March 3, 2016

There are many roads to Las Vegas, but for those looking for an invitation to the 2016 SEMA Show and the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), the road began in Willows, California. It was there that the first OUSCI qualifying event was held at Thunderhill Raceway Park on February 27th and 28th. Now in it's third full season, OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, saw a few significant rule and scoring changes over the winter months.

The GTL class for any vehicles weighing less than 3,200 pounds now has a minimum weight requirement of 95% of the factory curb weight. That change provides all four classes with a minimum weight requirement. It also helps minimize the chances of a competitor compromising the safety of their vehicle or street car integrity for the sake of performance gains realized through extreme weight reduction.

The points system has also been revised, with a perfect score in the five segments now being 500 points, based on overall finishing position in the entire field. As part of that change, the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge score is now equalized with the Lucas Oil Road Rally and the three timed segments on the track. If that all sounds like Greek, don't worry too much about how the series points are accumulated, just come out for a fun weekend at the track with a great group of people.

These events focus on a safe and fun experience, with competition being kept at the “friendly” level. Newcomers are also encouraged and the top finishing first-time participant will get their next event registration for free. Complimentary driving instructors are also offered for all competitors at each event and can help even seasoned track rats improve their line.

The next event will be held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 16th & 17th, so there's plenty of time to get your car around and make plans to head out to the desert for some fun on the track. If you'd like to see more of these events, tune in to MAVTV on Friday nights at 8pm eastern to watch the TV series or see old episodes on demand on Roku, Amazon fireTV, AndroidTV or online at www.lucasoilracing.tv

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

Andrew Nier has competed in the OUSCI twice and is looking for a hat trick in 2016. He's off to a great start with his 2012 Mustang grabbing a fourth-place finish in the GT class.
Arthur Mercado is a first-time competitor and his '65 Mustang earned a top-ten finish in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge. That's no easy task in the GTV class, but it helped him edge out Sean Fogli's F100 by a single point for 16th place overall finish in the class.
Jason Anthony was another first-time competitor in his '67 Mustang fastback. He made the most of his weekend and tied for the most passes in the Powerstop Speed Stop, making 11 runs. He also spent plenty of time on the Detroit Speed Autocross and Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial.
How close is the competition and how varied are the cars at these events? Karl Rodgers' super-rare '85 Mustang SVO edged out Martin Sokulski's '68 Dodge Charger in the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial by just .4 seconds for 11th place.
Martin Pond is a Fox-body freak, campaigning what might be one of the last road-worthy Mercury Zephyr station wagon in the world. He also proves you don't have to break the bank to be competitive, earning a sixth-place finish in the GTV class in a wagon he scored for a couple hundred bucks.
Matt Alcala is no stranger to this series and has appeared in multiple vehicles, but mostly in Mustangs. His 2006 GT has seen a lot of daily driver duty, but that didn't stop him from topping the GT field on the Detroit Speed Autocross, which lifted him to a top-five finish in the class.
It doesn't matter if Mike Maier's '66 Mustang is competing in the GTV class or heads-up against the field at the OUSCI, his car is always a top contender. He showed that on the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial, where he took the fourth-fastest lap of the weekend in a field chock-full of late-model Corvettes and Camaros. He also came away with a fourth-place finish in the GTV class.
While invitations to SEMA and the OUSCI are handed out to the top finishers in each of four classes, K&N Filters also extends a Spirit of the Event invitation. The recipient at Thunderhill was Sean Fogli and his '68 F100.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a nicer ride than Steve Murphy's '66 Mustang. The judges in the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge certainly felt that way, placing him second in that segment out of 59 cars at the event. That helped elevate Murphy to a top-ten finish in the GTV class.