OUSCI Competitor John Buttermore's 2012 Chevrolet Sonic
Every year there are a few entrants that on paper, leave folks scratching their heads and wondering how or why those vehicles made it into the field. It's probably safe to say John Buttermore's entry of a 2012 Chevrolet Sonic into the field for the 2012 OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational, presented by Royal Purple and KN Filters, would be one such entry.
While the Sonic was one of the lightest cars in the field, it was also one of the least-powerful. However, John Buttermore was one of the better drivers in the field, as he is the defending SCCA T1 National champion. The Sonic's entry into the OUSCI does answer questions for many folks- How would a relatively-stock car compare to the world's ultimate street cars? How much of a difference can a driver make in the OUSCI?
The Sonic puts an immense amount of pressure on the other competitors in the field, as it is a known combination that was very unlikely to have any mechanical issues (it ran flawlessly all day) and had a top-caliber driver behind the wheel. Weak sauce from anyone else in the field would result in a finish behind a nearly-bone stock Sonic. The OUSCI is not a "nothing to lose" propostion for some competitors, because of cars like the Sonic.
The inclusion of a car like the Sonic is not new for 2012 and will likely continue in the future. Do these entries intimidate and possibly scare away many "big-name" car builders? Probably. For some of those builders, the risk of their mega-horsepower machines failing and finishing behind a Sonic is too great for them to chance.
While the final results don't always present the full picture of what happened at the OUSCI, more than a few of the 2012 competitors had to explain why their rides didn't finish higher than the Sonic this year. In today's Power Source blog, we talked to Peter Basica, president of Pedders USA, to get his take on the Sonic's performance, as well as that of the other Pedders-equipped machines in this year's OUSCI and find out why they placed where they did and in some instances, didn't place even higher.
"The Sonic and John Buttermore did pretty well," says Basica. "A 23rd-place finish (out of 52 cars) in the RideTech Autocross is where we thought we would run. On the BF Goodrich Hot Lap Challenge, we ran almost exactly the time we expected (2:06.884), but finished lower than expected, due to the strength of the field."
The cars the Sonic did beat on the road course include several F-bodies, a Mustang and other tradtional muscle cars, some of which were producing well over 500 horsepower. Two Camaros that had no trouble posting faster times than the Sonic were two other Pedders-equipped fifth gen Camaros, driven by Danny Popp and Todd Rumpke, although Basica viewed anything short of victory from those two cars as a failure.
"The L/28 Camaro (driven by 2011 OUSCI Champion, Danny Popp) was the fastest car at the OUSCI and it broke," laments Basica. "Using the data we collected on the road course, we would've won that event. Instead, we broke a driveshaft coupler and went home seventh overall.
Todd Rumpke's Camaro didn't have mechanical issues, but didn't meet Basica's expecations either. "Todd roared out of the pits, determined to beat Danny and the field," says Basica. "He put four wheels off the track and never settled in, posting the 11th-fastest time of the day in the Hot Lap Challenge." Rumpke also finished 15th in the Autocross, which helped elevate him to a 22nd-place finish overall.
The driveshaft coupler failure on Popp's Camaro was obviously unexpected from a car that dominated the field at the OPTIMA Faceoff at Road America a few months earlier and would obviously be one thing they would've changed prior to the OUSCI, if they had a functional crystal ball in their tool chest. The other would be the addition of Carbotech XP 8 pads for the Sonic, as they believe that could've been good for another tenth or two in both the Autocross and Wilwood Speed Stop Challenge.
Overall, Basica was very impressed with the quality and depth of the 2012 OUSCI field, both in terms of cars and drivers and thought it was our most-competitive to date. Mark Stielow's performance especially impressed Basica, given the relative-newness of Stielow's Mayhem Camaro. The advice Basica offers for future competitors echoes what so many others have also said, "There is no detail too small to pay attetion to in the OUSCI," says Basica. "Check, double-check and then check it again."