It took the Kia Racing program just two seasons and 20 starts to capture Kia Motors America’s (KMA) first-ever championships in the 2011 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
Today at the Los Angeles Auto Show the company announced a major motorsports expansion for 2012 with two turbocharged Optimas set to enter the Pirelli World Challenge Championships. Continuing KMA’s successful partnership with Kinetic Motorsports, the World Challenge Optima SXs will compete in the Grand Touring Sport (GTS) class alongside established nameplates such as Mustang and Camaro at world-class race tracks across North America, including Road Atlanta, the street circuit in Long Beach, Calif., and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
“As a brand with no previous racing experience in America, for Kia to win two motorsports championships in just its second year is an incredible accomplishment, and expanding our motorsports footprint with the turbocharged Optima entering World Challenge will continue to build passion and enthusiasm for the brand with an entirely new fan base at different race tracks across the country,” said Michael Sprague, vice president, marketing & communications, KMA. “With its aerodynamic styling and outstanding driving dynamics, the Optima SX should be well suited to the ultra-competitive environment of World Challenge racing.”
Sanctioned by SCCA Pro Racing, World Challenge features world-class drivers and race-prepped versions of production vehicles from many of the world’s most popular manufacturers. The Kia Optimas will be the first Korean vehicles to compete in the series – which includes a suspenseful standing start rather than the more common rolling start – and is known for exciting door-to-door action throughout the 50-minute sprint races. For 2012, World Challenge races will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network.
Maintaining continuity in the Kia Racing program’s third-year, Kinetic Motorsports will build, develop and campaign the two Optima World Challenge cars while continuing Kia’s Forte Koup efforts in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Drivers for both programs will be announced in the near future.
The Optima is not the only Kia vehicle being summoned for race track duty in 2012. At the recent SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Kia announced that the all-new Rio 5-door will compete in the newly created B-Spec showroom stock series, while a tricked-out Optima ,Hybrid will serve as the USTCC’s official safety car beginning in March 2012.