When you think of the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), images of hot rods and domestics probably spring to mind first. That's changing, though, as more and more imports are starting to come in and prove themselves up to the challenge. While EVOs, STis, Porsches, and V8-swapped machines are still heavily represented, cars like the NC MX-5, the Lotus Elise, and the Nissan GT-R are making their presence known. That's why we like recapping the imports of the Ultimate Street Car Association (USCA) at SEMA.
It's actually been quite a surprise there hasn't been a bigger uprising of Japanese and European cars at the OUSCI and the USCA. It's quite the perfect event for more of the Modified and Street classes of many time attack series around the country. Add in that the qualifying events take place at legendary tracks, like Thunderhill, Circuit of the Americas, and Road America, and you have a series that can't be beat for great driving. You also don't have to have the fastest car to win the events overall, including the Invitational.
If you're unfamiliar with how the USCA runs their events, it's all points based in five categories: Design & Engineering, Road Rally, Speed-Stop, Autocross, and Road Course. Autocross and Road Course - which is a time attack or time trial, depending on which term you're familiar with - don't really need any explanation. The fastest times will get the highest points in each of those categories. Speed-Stop is the challenge of full acceleration, handling at the limit, and the braking abilities of your vehicle. Think of it as a very short autocross that you have to come to a complete stop at the end and be the closest to the cone of the stop box and still make the fastest time. Here, again, the fastest time will get the highest points.
Road Rally is basically a cruise that can go anywhere from 25- to 100-miles with the possibility of stops along the way. Usually, if there is a stop, it's somewhere with a speed bump or steep entrance. You also have to obey all traffic laws (including speed limits) and must be legal to drive. Yes, you must keep your catalytic converters. This is a single bonus point event but in the grand scheme all points count.
Design & Engineering is usually the equalizer for the events as this is where the cars must prove their street-ability while striking that balance of high-performance on track. The focus of D&E is performance, features that maintain or improve comfort for daily driving, high quality fit and finish, and the degree of technology used in the vehicle. Essentially, if you show up in a race car thinking you're going to destroy the competition, think again. If you don't have some creature comforts, you've lost the event before you've even showed up.
If you own an import and want to take down some of the best domestics for bragging rights in your street car legally, the OUSCI and the USCA are where you need to be. You'll get to run on the best tracks in the country and don't necessarily have to be the fastest car in the autocross or on the road course. Just be sure you're not bringing a race car that's just barely a street car.