(Words by Jim McIlvaine) OPTIMA’s 2022 Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, is now running in conjunction with Speed Tour, highlighted by the vintage cars of SVRA. “Vintage” is a broadly-accepted term in motorsports these days and as a result, it’s not unusual to see many SVRA entries that were professionally-campaigned within the last ten years.
The flipside of competitor that, is that SVRA fans and fans are still acclimating to the sight of street cars with full interiors tearing around the race track and then motoring into town with them at the end of the day. Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin is the longest-tenured track in this street car series, so even though they may be relative-newcomers to the Speed Tour scene, this track behind is old hat for most the wheel.
GT Class competitor, Jonathan Blevins knows Road America very well and picked up his 20th class win in the series in his 2008 Shelby GT500. Mike Gallagher has also visited this track and others in the series many times since he first started competing in 2014. However, he has never come away with a win until this weekend, when his 2016 Ford Focus RS was the top-finisher in the GTS Class.
One of the unique features of this series, is that it distributes points to competitors as a whole group, before they are divided into classes. This allows competitors to get a feel for how they will compete against the entire field, when the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational is held as the season finale. Mike Rovere has to be feeling pretty good about where his ’08 Corvette is running at this point. It not only posted the fastest time of the weekend in the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial, but won the Holley EFI GTL Class and grabbed the second-highest point total of the weekend at 477 points.
The second season for the No-Limit Engineering GTT Class for trucks, SUVs and vans shows continued growth in both field size and the level of competition- more trucks are competing and finishing the weekend, which is a good sign. After the first three events, Stephen Dorrick’s LS-swapped 2005 Nissan Frontier sits atop the standings and is scheduled to run one more time at VIR later this year, to see if he can hold on for the regular season championship. More than 20 trucks have already hit the track this year and a dozen of those trucks will be looking for the chance to knock off Dorrick’s Nissan for the championship.
Back when the compact cars were running in the Holley EFI GTL Class, Doug Wind’s ’04 Dodge SRT-4 did the near unthinkable, winning the GTL Class regular season championship. Compacts have now been moved into the GeauxMoto GTC Class, but the competition hasn’t waned at all. If Brian Johns wasn’t dominating in his RX-7, John Laughlin was in his Honda S2000. Laughlin struggled at Road America though and Wind was ready to pounce on the opportunity and now leads the GTC standings. Neither one will run at the next stop at Portland, which could open the door for Saroja Day, Dayton de la Houssaye or Matt Davis’ Pontiac Vibe, which will make it’s 2022 debut at that track.
On a weekend where the SVRA vintage cars are running, one might expect to see an inconic Ford GT40 running in Group 7. Instead, they had to look to the OPTIMA series to find Dan Long’s Superformance GT40 running in the Downforce Motorsports GTR Class for factory -authorized replicas. The class is in it’s infancy, but Dan tells us there are thousands of examples that could be running, between GT40s, Cobras, Corvettes and Daytona Coupes, just to name a few. He just needs to do some arm-twisting to get more of them to turn out.
The Speedtech Lucky 7 Outlaw Class was set up as a landing place for tube-frame chassis cars and pro drivers, but on this weekend, it was loaner drivers who made the best showing. If the driver of a vehicle is not the owner, associated with the builder of record or an immediate family member, they must compete in the Outlaw Class. Anthony Palladino built his tube frame chassis-equipped ’69 Datsun Roadster, but he was sandwiched on the podium by Mark Golovin, who was driving the Black Betty Camaro he sold to Valerie Pichette and Mark Owen, who was piloting a C8 Corvette on loan from his builder, Chris Smith of Smitty’s Custom Auto.
The series takes a month off, before heading back out West to run at Portland International Raceway. You can learn more about the series and how you can get involved in your street-legal car, truck, SUV or van at www.DriveOPTIMA.com
GT Class (post-1989, 3,200+ pounds, 2wd sedans, 4-seater coupes, etc…)
1. Jonathan Blevins, 2008 Ford Mustang
2. August Falkner, 2021 Chevrolet Corvette
3. James Thomas, 2016 Ford Mustang
Classic Car Liquidators GTV Class (pre-1990, 3200+ pounds)
1. Jason Bottenfield, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro
2. Brendan King, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro
3. Tom Farrington, 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle
GTS Class (post-1989, 3200+ pounds, two-seaters & awd vehicles)
1. Mike Gallagher, 2016 Ford Focus RS
2. Richard Forsythe, 2008 Chevrolet Corvette
3. Andy Voelkel, 2020 Chevrolet Corvette
Holley EFI GTL Class (non-compacts under 3200 pounds)
1. Mike Rovere, 2008 Chevrolet Corvette
2. Garry Walsh, 2004 Chevrolet Corvette
3. Jacob Fisher, 1985 Porsche 944
No Limit Engineering GTT Class (Trucks & SUVs over 3200 pounds)
1. Stephen Dorrick, 2005 Nissan Frontier
2. Scott Maeyaert, 1972 Chevrolet C10
3. Bob Folkstad, 1984 Chevrolet C10
GeauxMoto GTC Class (two-wheel drive compacts, 107-inch wheelbase or less)
1. Douglas Wind, 2004 Dodge SRT-4
2. Ryan Ellsworth, 1979 Mazda RX-7
3. John Laughlin, 2007 Honda S2000
Speedtech Lucky 7 Outlaw Class (relaxed aero rules, pro drivers allowed)
1. Mark Golovin, 2001 Chevrolet Camaro
2. Anthony Palladino, 1969 Datsun Roadster
3. Mike Owen, 2021 Chevrolet Corvette
Downforce Motorsports GTR Class (factory-authorized replica vehicles)
1. Dan Long, 1966 Superformance GT40
Summit Racing Spirit of the Event Award:
Tom Adjutant, 1964 Acadian Invader
2022 OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car Schedule
Charlotte Motor Speedway March 18-20
Sonoma Raceway April 30-May 2
Road America May 20-22
Portland International Raceway July 15-17
VIRginia International Raceway October 7-9
Utah Motorsports Campus October 14-16
OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational LVMS November 2-7