Optima Ultimate Street Car 2015: TMS Day 1 Recap

Where to even start? First of all, if there’s an Optima USCA event in your area, and you’re on the fence about going – GET OFF THE FENCE! Everything about this weekend was just fantastic, from the operation to the attitude and helpfulness of all involved both within USCA and the participants, it’s one of the most fun experiences we’ve ever had with the car.

Ok, with that out of the way, how did things go? We couldn’t be happier with the results. Let’s start with Saturday today, and wrap up Sunday in a second post (there’s kind of a lot to cover).

Saturday: Tech Inspection, Autocross, Speed Stop, & Judging

We arrived at the crack of dawn. Well, before the crack. Way before. The schedule to said to arrive no later than 7, and that turned out to mean that gates would open at 7 (live and learn, better early than late, etc.) Once in the gates, we scrambled to get the truck parked, the car unloaded and into the garage, and soon we were off to tech inspection.

The process was fairly thorough, and no major hiccups were found so we were on our way to getting the various decals put on. This was one part I was kind of dreading, but everything went smoothly and we had plenty of time to stand around and BS a bit before the drivers meeting.

The meeting started promptly at the time prescribed, and Jimi welcomed everyone and explained how the weekend would go. Saturday, everyone would split up based on car number, with odds heading to speed stop and evens to the autocross in the morning. Being #51 this really worked to our favor. I was able to get the feel for everything in the speed stop, which I assumed going in would be our weaker event given that I hadn’t done it before.

(Pictures from various sources – click to view higher resolution)

This ended up being the case, and we managed a 10.991 on the 4th of 8 runs. While this event started as a pure test of acceleration and braking, it’s morphed into a very simple autocross over the years. This was one was a run out that had us tickling the rev limited in first before a hard braking zone, then a right turn back almost 180 degrees, hard acceleration into an offset, and finally the 40×20 stop box. It’s much more a handling and braking test rather than pure braking now, but still fun.

Seeing a short line for judging, we decided to hop over there and get that taken care of. The hope was to get back and get a few more shots at it afterward, but we weren’t able to get back in time.

Speed Stop final: 10.991 – 7th in GTV

Thanks to Optima for the pic

 Design & Engineering Judging

You get funny looks when you mention that the car you’re autocrossing also did the distance on Drag Week. You get even funnier looks when you say basically the only things that are different are the front springs and the differential in the back. These looks can be good or bad, but in the case of Mike Copeland from Lingenfelter and Bangshift Chad, the host of the MAV TV series that covers the events, I think it worked in our favor. Each remembered the car, and in the case of Chad at least, it paid dividends before the weekend was over (more on that later).

Judging went smoothly after we got our turn, with the admission that it’s no Rolls, but I’d drive it pretty much anywhere with a great big sweaty/shivering smile on my face.


After a brief lunch, and a quick walk through the (by Texas autocross standards) pretty tight course, it was time to take on the cones. The first several runs were really frustrating, as it’s been forever since I’ve run a really tight course, and on top of that, I’ve never had to negotiate elements anywhere near as tight as the 180s and offsets along the back were.

After a few runs, several cones, and some head scratching, things started to fall into place. Five runs in, a 45.559 was the best we had, and we decided to head to the garage to investigate some unusual sounds coming from the rear end. No major issues were found, so it was back to the course to get a few more laps before time was up. This paid off, as the next to last run we picked up nearly 2 tenths.

Autocross final: 45.361 – 4th in GTV

Video from the Autocross and Speed Stop

Road Rally

Thanks to Shiloh from Heritage Collision Center for the pic

This was one of the best parts of the event for me, as it’s been forever since we’ve just driven the car. As hard as it is to get in and out of, and as loud as it is going down the road (though, not nearly as loud as it used to be), it’s still an absolute joy to just cruise in. The seats are incredibly comfortable, it trucks along at 70 around 2,600 RPM, and it’s just fun in general to ride around in a full caged car with 5 points on if I’m honest.

Thanks to Optima for the pic

The route took us to Pole Position indoor karting, where Holley had sponsored discounted karting and Rudy’s BBQ for everyone. Since none of us had had enough driving that day, the karting was on shortly after the group arrived. Lots of good racing, both of the kart and bench varieties. A great end to a fantastic day (even if I didn’t manage to take home a first place time in any of the 3 races).

After the short drive back up the road, it was time to call it a day and get some sleep – the big track and a bit of uncertainty was up next. More on that in the next post!

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