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2022 will mark the biggest changes in the nine-year history of OPTIMA's Search for the Ultimate Street Car, presented by Advance Auto Parts, since the points system was overhauled for the 2016 season. Not only will the DriveOPTIMA series run in conjunction with SVRA, Trans Am and the rest of the SpeedTour series, but the format of DriveOPTIMA will be changing in significant ways.
With six events spread from coast to coast, invitations to attend the SEMA Show and compete in the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational that aren't won at qualifying events will now hinge on a competitor's best two finishes at these six events, which is down from previous years, where it was a total of their best three performances. The weekend format will also see significant changes, especially as it relates to the Falken Tire Road Course time trial. Because of scheduling constraints, tech inspection will only be performed on Friday and no tech inspection will be available on Saturday morning. Orientation will likely take place on Friday evening, and while they may not be mandatory, there won't be orientation laps on Saturday or Sunday. While details of the weekend schedules are still being worked out, there's a possibility that a novice group may also run the Falken Tire Road Course time trial on Friday.
Competitors will now have three sessions on the big track (down from four in previous years), with the first session serving as a qualifying session that determines run groups for the final two sessions of the weekend. Since this portion of DriveOPTIMA involves a time trial and competitors will have limited opportunities to turn in times, spacing between vehicles and open track will be at a premium for those who desire it (some folks prefer to chase faster cars or run with friends). That also makes punctuality important, as late arrivals will grid at the very back of their run group, behind the slowest cars in the session.
Once competitors are qualified and on track, their fastest time from each session will be combined for their total time of the weekend, which determines finishing position. This places a heavy emphasis on a consistent, reliable vehicle that can perform beyond a single "hero" lap to get their best time of the weekend. Competitors will want to post the best qualifying lap time possible to get into the fastest run group for the cleanest lap times possible.
Also, if for some reason any of the three run groups are unable to complete both competition sessions, the incomplete session will be scrapped for all groups and the results will be based on the single competition session completed by all run groups. In the unlikely event that both competition sessions were to get scrapped, then the final results would be determined by qualifying times. Reliability and the ability to stay on track are the keys to success under the new format.
If that weren't a big enough change, competitors will also now run the road course every day of competition, making it critical that vehicles are able to easily transition from one competitive driving segment to another. More changes are in the works, that we haven't covered here yet, relative to specific classes, so if you haven't tuned into the USCA podcast yet, be sure to listen to the latest episodes.
Registration for USCA members opens on December 28th at www.DriveOPTIMA.com and fields in the 2022 season will be limited to 75 entries. Don't forget, you can always watch past season of the series free, anytime on the OPTIMA Network on Roku, AppleTV or Amazon Fire TV.