Kia Racing’s highly-anticipated return home to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, did not disappoint as the team scored a pair of hard-fought podium finishes in rounds five and six of the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC). The double podium moves Kia Racing drivers Ben Clucas, in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.org Optima turbo, and Mark Wilkins, in the No. 38 B.R.A.K.E.S. Optima turbo, into sixth and seventh, respectively, in the GTS Driver Championship standings.
[ads id=”0″ style=”float:left;padding:5px;”]“We were holding our own in fourth place for most of the race Friday afternoon, just trying to stay within striking distance of the leaders and put ourselves in a position to move up late in the contest,” said Wilkins, who qualified third in round five. “After some contact between the cars ahead of me, a gap opened and I was in the right place at the right time. The result was second place but the competition wasn’t giving an inch and it was no cakewalk.”
Meanwhile, Wilkins’ teammate, Ben Clucas in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.org Optima turbo, was one of the cars involved in Friday’s incident in round five which benefitted his Kia Racing teammate. The contact sent him off-track and ended his hopes for a podium performance, and he wound up finishing eighth – a disappointing result after starting the race outside row one on the grid and setting a strong pace during the race. However, the team’s hard work in the paddock and Clucas’ determination behind the wheel would reward him the next day in round six.
Clucas’ No. 36 Optima battled hard with a pair of Ford Mustangs for much of the contest Saturday afternoon, with plenty of position changes throughout the 50-minute race. It was a good, clean race from flag to flag and eventually Clucas crossed the line in third place – his second podium in the early months of a long season ahead.
“We had a good car here this weekend and I thought we had a shot at the podium in both races. Obviously, things turned out better for us in round six, but I was happy for Mark to get the podium finish in round five,” said Clucas. “We had the pace in practice and qualifying, but racing is a whole other matter. We got some much-needed Manufacturer and Driver points this weekend, so we’re feeling pretty good.”
After a challenging weekend, the team came away from Barber feeling positive as it was a nice result for Kia at its home track, which is very close to the Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) plant in West Point, Georgia, where the Optima is assembled. The team already has its sights set on rounds seven and eight at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, where the Kia Racing team has tasted victory in the past – scoring Kia Racing’s first PWC victory in 2012.
Tape-delayed televised coverage of the doubleheader weekend will air on the CBS Sports Network Sunday, May 3, at 2 p.m. ET. Live-streamed coverage of all PWC races is available online at www.world-challengetv.com, and race fans can keep up-to-date with the Kia Racing team via the Kia Motors America Facebook and Instagram pages, and on Twitter @Kia.