Not Just Exhibitionists- OPTIMA Batteries Ultimate Street Car Invitational

Debuting this past Saturday on Speed TV was the one-hour OPTIMA Batteries Ultimate Street Car Invitational. Hooniverse caught the show, and we can tell you that the winning car was . . . . . . the one that scored the most points. You didn’t think we’d spoil the surprise did you? Now, you might ask yourself, what is the OPTIMA Batteries Ultimate Street Car Invitational? You might also ask, why is it’s name so long? We can help you on both of those accounts. Have you ever watched one of those body builder contests? You know, the ones with all the Ah-nold schwarzenegger types all oiled up and wearing way too-small culottes?  While they strive for that bulked up appearance, they’re so muscle-bound they can’t really do any amazing feats of strength. That’s kind of how SEMA show cars are- the purpose of the cars is to demonstrate all the cool go-faster hardware, but usually the cars are so meticulously prepared that the thought of actually yanking one off the show floor and putting tire to track would cause their handlers to throw up in their mouths a little bit. Despite the threat of collateral spewage, that’s exactly what OPTIMA Batteries did- they invited (hence the Invitational) 46 cars from the show floor to the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump Nevada (that’s right, Pahrump) for a triple threat performance shootout pitting stocker against rocker. The OPTIMA Batteries Ultimate Street Car Invitational is designed to give builders and owners of some the world’s most awesome streetcars the opportunity to show their stuff on a closed circuit professional road racing course. Cam Douglass, the Director of Marketing and Product Development for OPTIMA came up with the idea for the one-day gathering, to take place at the SEMA show’s close, and the 2009 event was its sophomore run. Thirty drivers and competitive class cars, as well as 16 exhibition cars undertook a baptism of fire in three performance tests, and a beauty pageant of sorts. The performance runs taxed both car and driver, and were broken into accelaration/braking, autocross, and road course segments. The styling portion was intended to judge overall craftsmanship, quality and engineering. None of the cars invited to participate were purpose-built racers, and had to run DOT-grade 180+ treadwear tires. But that didn’t mean that the cars that showed up weren’t ready to rock.
And what kind of cars did show up? Well, pretty much everything you’d expect, including every flavor of Camaro, both classic and contemporary Mustang, Chargers and Cudas, and even a 2008 Bentley GT Speed. The exhibition class had a GTR representing, a Z06 Vette and an Infiniti G35 that eats something interesting for lunch- transmissions. And the whole show was captured by cameras in a 2009 ZR1, driven by racer Jim Holloway. The track at Spring Mountain, situated just off of Hwy 160, is like an oasis in asphalt, with a North-South track encompassing 2.2 miles, and used for the road course portion of the event. The trailer will give you a taste of the track:

The first performance event was a zero to sixty to zero timed test. Most of the cars had more problems with the electronic timing equipment than with the actual run and flat-spotted tires were the rule, not the exception. After the acceleration/braking test, the cars moved on to the autocross. Here, almost Top Gear USA host Tanner Foust demo’d how to take the course sideways, and generated so much smoke that they likely had to divert traffic at McCarran International Airport. The road course provided the best soundtrack to the event, as well as the most drama as the heavily modded G35 blew its driveline all over the track. While not quite as dramatic, watching a SEMA-prepped Malibu or hairy-chested Cobra take to the track like a turpentined cat makes you wish it was you behind the wheel.
At the end of the day, The OPTIMA Batteries Ultimate Street Car Invitational gathered together over $15,000,000 worth of iron, with over 25,000 collective horsepower. And, unlike at SEMA these are all moving displays. One car stood above all others, and it had to stand pretty tall to do so, so strong was the competition. Check out the Speed TV schedule for repeats of the show to find out which car that was. And get ready for this year’s event, when once again SEMA’s best go from the Vegas strip to the drag strip.

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