2014 OUSCI Preview- Betim Berisha's 2011 Porsche 911TT
Betim Berisha is no stranger to competitive driving or the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational, but his 2011 Porsche 911TT might not be familiar to OUSCI fans in it's current state. The car ran last year (and did very well) in vintage Apple livery, but has now gone back to it's previous gray hue. Berisha qualified for the 2014 OUSCI at the very first Ultimate Street Car Association event at Laguna Seca and we caught up with him recently, to find out how he has been spending his time since then.
"As you know, I am at BBI Autosport here in Huntington Beach, California all hours of my life," jokes Berisha. The truth is, Betim has been a very busy man. "We went to Pike's Peak this year to compete and it was an amazing event," says Berisha. "We set a class record in qualifying but unfortunately, lost a fuel pump half way up the hill and finished in 12th place." (watch their Pike's Peak video here) If that wasn't exciting enough, Berisha also found time to get engaged to Amy Callahan and plans to marry her in December, shortly after the OUSCI. Congratulations to both of you!
Besides the Apple livery going away, the Porsche 911TT hasn't seen too many changes since Laguna Seca. "We've had it on the dyno a lot with COBB Tuning and estimate it will have about 640 horsepower and 640 lb-ft. of torque." That is up slightly from what we've seen in the past and combined with the Porsche's all-wheel drive platform, should help make Betim a contender once again in 2014. Berisha tells us he will also probably send his Öhlins shocks out for rebuilding and probably run a more aggressive brake pad, based on his experiences in the car at Laguna Seca.
Unlike many of the other OUSCI competitors we've interviewed, Berisha actually has prior experience on the road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which could give him an advantage in the BFGoodrich Hot Lap Challenge. "I have mixed feelings about LVMS," says Berisha. "I just started getting Spring Mountain down and you guys throw this at me!" he says jokingly. "I have driven at that track once before and I can tell you that it will favor a longer wheelbase car with down force. Some of the sweepers require a bit a patience and a lot of tire and the straightaways are nothing to shake a stick at. I think the muscle cars will do well here."
As a veteran of OUSCI competition, Betim knows who the top contenders are year in and year out. Even with all the AWD/ABS cars that have run in the OUSCI over the years, the winners still seem to be traditional musclecars, versus modern performance cars. We asked Betim with a field full of talented drivers, like Ken Thwaits, Danny Popp, Bryan Johnson and Brandon Ranvek, would this be the year we finally see an import or European car emerge victorious and what does he feel might be the deciding factor?
"It feels like the last couple of years, the competition has been feeling everyone else out and dipping their toe in the water to see how it feels, but at Laguna Seca, the gloves were off. Everyone stepped it up big-time. I would put down a time that I thought no one would beat and the next time I turned my head, I'm in ninth place!" There certainly is some truth to that, as the field in the BFGoodrich Hot Lap Challenge was very competitive. Berisha posted a solid time of 1:46.776, which was faster than everyone in the GT2K and GT3K classes, except for Danny Popp (1:45.974), but it was only good enough for fourth place in the AWD class, behind Ricky Kwan (1:45.645), Brandon Ranvek (1:45.831) and Casey Wallace (1:46.057). All four of those drivers have also punched their tickets for the OUSCI.
So how did Berisha emerge with an invitation from such a talented field? In a word- consistency, which competitors will also tell you is the key for doing well at the OUSCI. Betim finished second to Ranvek in the RideTech Autocross and third behind Soliman and Ranvek in the Wilwood Disc Brakes Speed Stop Challenge. Berisha also topped the class in the Lingenfelter Performance Design Engineering Challenge (don't underestimate the importance of that event in total scoring) and had no hiccups on the Detroit Speed Engineering Road Rally.
"Like I said, everyone is nice and all smiles, but when the helmets are on, all the smiles are out the window," says Berisha. Betim tells us a lot of the folks we mentioned give him a stomach ache, but there are plenty more to watch out for as well. "I would say there is a group of about 20 different people, who can take the OUSCI, if they play their cards right," says Betim.
This should make for a very interesting OUSCI field and we can't wait to see the results. Don't miss out on the action. Be sure to buy your OUSCI tickets today!
Betim would like to acknowledge all the great work the folks at BBI Autosport have put in on preparing his car and he would appreciate it if you followed @bbiautosport on Instagram. Betim tells us they will have about six cars sprinkled around the SEMA Show, so be sure to check them out if you are heading to Las Vegas. We definitely will!