2017 DriveOPTIMA Mid-Season Points Review- GTC

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The 2017 season of OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car brought about some interesting changes in the series. For the first time, compact cars have their own class to run in, called GTC. The rules describe the class as, "naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder or 2-rotary engines, FWD or RWD, front engine mount with max 107” wheelbase. All vehicles in this class must weigh, at a minimum, 95% of the factory published curb weight. Drivers are responsible for providing documentation." In essence, this class was created for drivers of the Mazda Miata/MX5, Honda Civic, S2000, Toyota FRS, Mini Cooper, etc... The notable exceptions that meet the wheelbase and engine requirements are Lotus & Porsche entries, which remain in GTL, provided they are less than 3,200 pounds.

Some familiar faces returned to the series in this new class, although some of them are in new rides to meet the GTC rules. One such example is current GTC points leader, Scott Budisalich, who had campaigned an all-wheel drive Subaru in the past, but has now moved into a Honda S2000. Another is Andy Hollis, who had run his McLaren, but returned in a Miata he had also campaigned in the past, except it now has a K24 Honda engine under the hood.

Still others have run in the past in the same rides and likely welcome the competitiveness offered by the new class, including Erik Vandermey in his Mazda MX-5, Anthony Cuthbert in his Dodge Dart and Pam Corrigan in her MX-5. There are also some newcomers to the series, most of whom have yet to run in an event. The rough total we have for this class at this point is about 16 entries. It was expected to be a small class and compared to some of the other more established classes that could see close to 100 different entries over seven events, that appears to be the case. However, that also creates opportunities for those willing to venture into uncharted waters.

Each event will yield an entry into the 2017 SEMA Show and OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) and Budisalich, Kevin Schultz and Erik Vandermey have already punched their tickets. That means four of the remaining 13 cars will earn invitations before the end of the regular season, based on their performance at a specific qualifying event. Once the regular season is completed, the top-three non-qualifiers from each class will also receive invitations to SEMA and the OUSCI, based on their season-long point totals. That means three of nine remaining competitors will also receive invitations. There are also ten additional entries handed out to competitors across all the classes based on season-long point totals, regardless of class. However, there are no GTC competitors projected to earn one of those invitations at this time.

More entries could come in before the end of the season, while some current entries could drop out. However, as it stands now, more than 62% of the GTC class entries are likely to earn invitations to SEMA and the OUSCI. While anyone competing in classes besides GTC, who are trying to gain entry into SEMA and the OUSCI based on points will need to run at least three events, GTC competitors may only need to complete two events.

There are five GTC competitors, who have not yet run an event this season. Depending on how those five finish over the last four events, that threshold may drop to just a single good performance in a qualifying event. There is also a possibility Andy Hollis (416 points and currently second in GTC) will decline an invitation, if earned, which would transfer an invitation to one additional position.

The average score for a GTC competitor this season has been 345 points. If we use that average to project the final five competitors, who have not yet run this season, it's pretty easy to see who will receive invitations based on seven class invites at events and at least two invites based on points. That tenth entry becomes a big question mark though. Josh Vedder is expected to run two events, which would likely place him safely in the field. However, there's no telling how Andrew Fritts, Bradford Crouch, Cory Hillebrandt or Dan Hayes will run.

Sammy Valafar's score of 349 points could put him in the field, but if those other four run better than that, they could leapfrog past him and depending on how well they do, past Hollis' 416-point total. Bob Boileau is ahead of Hollis and will likely finish with more than 600 points and possibly more than 700, since he'll be running at his home track of PPIR. A perfect score is 500 points and those remaining four are only running single events, so they'd never be able to catch Boileau once he surpasses the 500-point mark.

In terms of the points championship, this looks to be a four-horse race, as only four GTC competitors will run at least three events this season. That includes current points leader, Scott Budisalich, Kevin Schultz, Erik Vandermey and Anthony Cuthbert. Budisalich and Schultz appear to have some distance between the other two, but only Budisalich has run more than one event so far, so there is much to be decided. You can follow the series on MAVTV every weekend, starting Friday nights at 8PM Eastern. You can also watch past episodes of the series for free anytime on the OPTIMA Network on Roku or Amazon Fire.

Learn more about the series and how you can compete in your street-legal compact vehicle at www.DriveOPTIMA.com