View Full Version : Optima USCA April Vegas event report

05-04-2015, 08:32 PM
I thought I would post up my event report as a first time participant in the Optima USCA event this past April. I had a great time going to Optima and anytime you can drive your car 300 miles to an event, beat on it hard for two days, and then drive it 300 miles home without pulling any tools out of the tool box is a success!

Friday recap:
I had taken the day off of work to drive out to Vegas but used the morning to 1) wire up my DSE wiper motor and 2) fix a broken rotor bolt. I think I've had the wiper motor on the car for 5 or more years but never actually hooked it up...

Car is packed up and ready to go. Driving the car rather than trailering it means I need to keep the Sub for quality tunes... or ones strong enough to overpower the wind noise from a window design that is practically 50 years old.

TCI came to my rescue on the broken bolt issue so I stopped by their shop on the way out of town.

It was a good thing too because on my drive to Vegas it rained a little bit but on the road rally portion it rained the whole 1.5-2 hours including pouring pretty hard in some spots.

Getting some use out of those wipers!

This was my first road trip in the Camaro since the V3.0 build and I was fairly pleased with the 19.5 mpg I got since driving this to and from a local autocross I usually get closer to 12 mpg. However, I also learned that the off idle flat spot created by my recent Westech tune was an order of magnitude worse at the 2500 ft of elevation in Vegas.

Made it to Vegas without incident and not too terrible on traffic. My wife was actually already in Vegas for work and had to work through the weekend which meant I got to see her and do dinners with her as well as have a free place to stay! It was worth the 20 minute drive to the track and back each day.

05-04-2015, 08:35 PM
Saturday recap:

When I went to start the Camaro at 6:30am in the cold Vegas morning I discovered that the poor idle and off idle characteristics of my engine tune were even worse with a totally cold engine. After the car starting and dying 3 or 4 times I managed to get the revs up to about 2500-3000 and did the Mike Maier clutch technique to get the car moving out of the parking lot and down the street. The rest of Saturday I fought the engine in trying to move the car around the pits at slow speeds.

Here is the car after going through tech and getting all stickered up for the event!

I thought the stickers added a certain race car flare to the car :)

Saturday was the day Optima did speed stop and autocross. They broke the competitors into two groups and each group did one event for half the day and then switched.

I was in the group that did speed stop in the morning and autocross after lunch. speed stop was the event I looked forward to the least. It was one that I perceived to be really hard on the car due to launching hard like a drag race and having to stop from high speed and I already did all the flat spotting I want to do at Fontana within the last month. However, the speed stop was a lot of fun. They had a 90* left hand turn pretty close to the start so that combined with an unprepared surface meant the launch wasn't all that hard on the car. Then they had a half chicane like setup on the straight so you didn't get crazy speeds so the stop wasn't too bad.

After 5 runs I had blown the stop box twice and hit the exit cones (and flag once) at a pretty good clip. I was pleased my new spoiler took the blows and didn't' show any marks or deformation. However, at this point Jimi Day's warning not to "use up all your junk" on the first day is starting to play back in my head and I'm wondering if I can get a better time. I try to encourage myself and run two more times, each one being "just one more run." Sadly, both of those "one more runs" didn't improve over my first run let alone my best.

Feeling discouraged, I decided to call it quits on the speed stop and go over and get my car judged for the Engineering & Design portion. However, this gave me a perfect view of the speed stop event and while watching everyone else keep trying and having fun I realized I had to go out and try at least "once more run." It took so long to get through the line at the Engineering & Design I only had enough time for my one more run so this time it was for reel... sort of. After being told it was my last run the timing lights didn't trip so I got another shot at it. Bam! I was able to drop my time almost half a second. The effort to try one more time paid off as that better time was the difference between placing 8th and placing 4th in my class for speed stop.

In the afternoon it was time to run the autocross. This time my best run came on 5 of 11 runs so running "one more time" didn't pay off. Normally, I would of run all the auto cross runs they would let me but I was fighting a charging issue. The heat soak my alternator was experiencing at the autocross caused it to stop charging at idle and barely charging at higher RPM's. So I was slowly running my battery down. However my best autocross time was still good enough for 5th in my class for the day.

The end of the competition of the day came and it was time for the road rally. This time, not only would the cars be tested by having to go down the Vegas strip in stop and go traffic where it took 3-6 stop light changes to get through each light and about an hour to go a handful of miles but the entire 35 mile route we got varying amounts of rain. Again I was thankful for having working windshield wipers. Some great pics came out of the cruise though!


Maier's Mustang. I can't imagine how much his clutch sucked to drive on the Vegas strip...

Cheryll's Nova:

As you can see we had legit rain to contend with.

After returning to the track we learned the Holly party was cancelled due to the rain and I returned to the hotel with a mission. Reverting my tune back to the original Mast tune. After fighting the software for 2 hours I got it working on my wifes laptop and it took about 5 minutes to do in the car and Bam the Camaro sudenly was fun to drive again! It started right up Sunday morning after sitting outside overnight and I could actually accelerate from a stop like a street car rather than race car. Yes!! I'm sticking with the no tools theory in that the computer doesn't count lol.

05-04-2015, 08:36 PM
Sunday recap:

Sunday is when they run the road course. It is organized and run a lot like a typical track day for anyone that has been to one of those. The group was split up into three classes, beginner, intermediate and advanced. Each group would get 5 approximately 20 minute sessions on the track so tons of seat time!

the difference in the run groups were:
Beginner - no passing at all, I believe less strict on safety gear
Intermediate - passing on straights with point by only
Advanced - open passing on the straights.

I ran in the intermediate group.

The course we ran was the LVMS outside road course. I guess it is named that way because the course it outside and next to the big Nascar oval. Its a fun track but much harder on brakes than most of the socal tracks I've run and that came to haunt me. Just based on the parade laps I knew this course was going to be tough on brakes. In my first session out I didn't push that hard but still got some brake fade. Subsequent sessions got worse until my third session where I tried to push on the car I boiled the fluid and by the time I got off the track I had no brakes at all. The consequences of my brake problems meant I had to brake much earlier than I should of had to and a super inconsistent pedal making toe heel braking extremely difficult for me. I was pitting with the Wilwood guys and was taking some flak for not using a more aggressive pad compound on this track.

I sat out my 4th session figuring I was done for the day but then "one ore time" syndrome started and I decided that on my 5th and last session I would try and get near the back of the lineup and just go run some laps for fun. Which is exactly what I did. I decided not to even try and toe heel shift and to just focus on the braking in a safe and controlled manner. I got 3 laps in before I boiled the brake fluid again but I was having a lot more fun as I had taken the pressure off myself. Funny enough I ran my best time of the day in those three laps too.


After pulling into the pits and letting the car cool off it was time to pack up for the long drive home.

I'm super glad I stuck around for the awards ceremony as I won the first timer award. They give this award out to the new driver at Optima that scores the most points. Now technically I scored the second most points of new drivers but since the guy that scored more than me also won his class I got the first timer award. I'm still stoked with the award as there were other newbies there.

One of the coolest things about Optima is that after the finish the award ceremony the post all the results for the weekend. Literally walking back into the pits you can go online and see all your lap times, points scored, etc. It was an even bigger surprise when I went online on my phone and saw I came in 4th in the GTV class. I'm pretty damn proud of this accomplishment.


Finally, I picked up my wife who was working all weekend in Vegas and started the long drive home. Sunday night drive from Vegas to Socal sucks but we got to watch the sun set over the desert which was picturesque.


05-04-2015, 08:38 PM
And the video of my best runs from each of the three events.


05-05-2015, 03:50 AM
Sounds like you had a fantastic weekend. Thanks for sharing your story. Having done my first Optima event last summer I can relate to a lot of your story first hand. I can't wait to do another...

Glad the car held up for you and that you were able to enjoy the event start to finish. It doesn't get any better than that.

05-05-2015, 06:52 AM
I think for the first time in my life, I had to use the windshield wipers on one of my Corvettes. I was really surprised that my wipers worked. When I first turn them on, they didn't initally move and I was just coming onto the freeway and I thought that I was screwed and had to turn back than all of sudden they finally worked. I was lucky.

Just like Chad, driving on the Strip with a Triple Disk Competition Clutch and no fly wheel was an experience especially in the rain. I think I only stalled it a couple of times.