2021 OUSCI DriveOptima Ultimate Streetcar Race SEMA Vegas results

The OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), presented by Advance Auto Parts, has been an annual tradition since 2008. The event was started with the goal of highlighting SEMA Show vehicles that didn’t just look great on display at the convention center but were also road-worthy and track-capable. When the SEMA Show was canceled for 2020, the OUSCI moved to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where CB Ramey’s ’87 Corvette topped Jake Rozelle’s C5 Corvette by a single point to capture a surprise victory in this showcase event.

When the SEMA Show returned for 2021, the OUSCI didn’t just come back to Las Vegas, it brought the competition to the very show where it was born. For the first time ever, the cars of the OUSCI showed the SEMA crowd just how capable they were by running the Peak Performance Challenge in the Bronze lot next to the South exhibit hall. But would the SEMA attendees have any interest in cars that were turned loose on the grounds with a purpose beyond burning up tires in an endless cycle of donuts?

That question was answered on Thursday and re-affirmed on Friday, when these cars drew massive crowds. Attendees couldn’t get enough of the latest iteration of the driving event, which was in some ways familiar and in others completely new. The Peak Performance Challenge started with straight-line acceleration on an un-prepped surface, before going into challenging turns followed by another section of hard acceleration, after which cars are required to stop within a 20’x40′ stop box. 

A little bit of drag racing, a little bit of autocrossing and a whole lot of action were packed into each 20-second run. The crowd loved the variety of vehicles and immediately understood the challenge of what they were watching. With more than 90 cars in the event, the action was non-stop all day on Thursday, and drew even bigger crowds on Friday. 

It was an electric atmosphere, but brand-new for the competitors, most of whom had never performed in front of a crowd of that size before. Though some faltered, the overall result was the birth of a new fanbase, many of whom followed the cars to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the QA1 Autocross on Saturday and the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial on Sunday. 

While a less-condensed weekend schedule was a welcome relief, the competition itself remained fierce. Competitors didn’t know the outcome of the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering Challenge until the lunchtime break on Sunday, but they knew the margins would be slim. Each segment is worth up to 100 points for the overall winner, with each subsequent finishing position worth one point less in descending order. 

That places the emphasis not only on maximizing points in each segment but also on gaining distance from one’s competition to make up for potential gaps in one of the other segments. When the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering results were finally released, the results showed a very tight race at the top, as expected. Through the first four days of events, the top three cars were separated by just a handful of points, and once again the Ultimate Street Car title appeared to come down to the outcome of the Falken Tire Road Course Time Trial.

CB Ramey’s Corvette battled braking issues all morning, and didn’t run the first session. Jake Rozelle’s C5 carried a hefty lead in overall points until the final session before the lunch break. In that session, Ramey managed to lay down a 1:45.9, good enough to place his Corvette in the top-10 overall, although Rozelle’s Corvette still sat at the top. When the Lingenfelter Design & Engineering results were posted, Rozelle saw Ramey’s overall win in that segment and a five-point advantage. Quick math gave him a flashback to the 2020 OUSCI, where he had lost to Ramey by a single point. Design & Engineering scores served as the first tiebreaker, which meant that if Ramey could go no faster in the afternoon, and no one passed Rozelle for the top spot, four more cars would need to beat Ramey’s best time—a very tall order. 

All Rozelle could do on the track was protect his lead throughout the day, and he did just that, whittling his best time down to a 1:42.4 in the afternoon. Michael Levitas’ Porsche was the only car that came close and it only managed a 1:44.4 in the final session of the weekend. Rozelle still needed four more cars to join him ahead of Ramey, however. Off the track, Jake coached up everyone within striking distance of Ramey, offering all his secrets for fast lap times.  

Who Won the 2021 Optima OUSCI Championship in Vegas?

Mike Rovere’s Corvette and Dave Schotz’s Camaro were the first to join Ramey in the early afternoon, posting a 1:45.1 and 1:45.4 respectively, but he still clung to a one-point lead going into the final session of the weekend. CB did his best to reel in Rozelle, posting his best run of the weekend, a 1:48.887, but Clayton Yates’ Camaro came across with a 1:45.3 to move around Ramey, and then the Ford Mustang of Jonathan Blevins, which had been struggling all weekend, ran a surprising 1:45.829, passing Ramey by just .058 seconds.

Eight events over eight months, and OPTIMA’s 2021 Search for the Ultimate Street Car all came down to a fraction of a second. The cars really are that incredible, and seeing is believing. The 2022 schedule will be announced later this year, and registration will open up before the end of the year, so if you want in, head over to DriveOPTIMA.com and get ready to join in the action!

— Photos by Ian Brockman

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