When we arrived at Kia’s SEMA Show booth, PR boss Alex Fedorak told us that we had guessed correctly – the big announcement, as we correctly surmised, was that Kia is going racing in 2010.
Kia will be racing in the Grand Am Koni Challenge series in a race prepped version of its Forte Koup, taking on competitors like the Honda Civic and BMW 328i. The company is expected to field a two car effort although just one vehicle has been confirmed. The announcement marks the first time Kia will go racing on U.S. soil.
Kinetic Motorsports built the car for Kia, using the same 2.4-liter 4-cylinder motor but tuned to around 220-hp.
Kinetic is no stranger to fielding successful race cars and so Kia also went looking for some seriously talented drivers and found them in Andy Lally and Nic Jönsson. Lally has been driving in the Grand-Am Rolex series and even won the 24 Hours of Daytona in the GT Class just last year. Lally also races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Craftsman Truck series, ARCA and Goodies Dash. Jönsson has numerous titles to his name with a long history in Grand-Am and ALMS.
“The Forte Koup is the latest chapter in the dramatic Kia brand transformation story, and the decision to enter into the motorsports arena was an easy one to make,” said Michael Sprague, VP of marketing at Kia Motors America. “The Forte Koup’s performance-inspired styling and outstanding driving dynamics make it a natural fit for road racing, and competing in GRAND-AM’s KONI Challenge Series enables us to reach an entirely new and passionate base of automotive enthusiasts. We expect the Forte Koup to be a strong competitor in the GRAND-AM KONI Challenge Series starting with the first race in Daytona.
Kia is looking to build itself as a performance company and the Forte Koup as a performance car and plans to use this racing initiative to do just that. In speaking to some of the people involved in the Forte Koup race car build, we should expect to see Kia offer performance parts and accessories through its dealership network in the near future.
GALLERY: Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup
Official release after the jump:
KIA MOTORS AMERICA UNVEILS U.S. MOTORSPORTS PROGRAM
Forte Koup Will Enter GRAND-AM KONI Sports Car Challenge Series Street Tuner (ST) Class
* Kia Motors and Kinetic Group team up to build and campaign race cars for the automaker’s first-ever auto racing efforts on U.S. soil
* Decorated drivers Andy Lally and Nic Jönsson to pilot Kia Forte Koup race cars
LAS VEGAS, November 3, 2009 – The all-new 2010 Kia Forte Koup’s motto – “One Hot Ride” – took on a new meaning today as Kia Motors America (KMA) unveiled its U.S. motorsports program at the 2009 SEMA Show. KMA has teamed with the Kinetic Group to build and campaign two Forte Koups in the 2010 GRAND-AM KONI Sports Car Challenge Series in the Street Tuner (ST) class.
“The Forte Koup is the latest chapter in the dramatic Kia brand transformation story, and the decision to enter into the motorsports arena was an easy one to make,” said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing, KMA. “The Forte Koup’s performance-inspired styling and outstanding driving dynamics make it a natural fit for road racing, and competing in GRAND-AM’s KONI Challenge Series enables us to reach an entirely new and passionate base of automotive enthusiasts.”
The GRAND-AM KONI Challenge Street Tuner (ST) class utilizes production-based race cars and has a wide variety of vehicles from the U.S., Europe and Asia, using weight and intake restrictions to maintain a level playing field for all entrants.
“We researched every form of auto racing in the U.S. to find a fan base that was aligned with our target demographics, and found GRAND-AM to be the perfect fit,” said Sprague. “In addition to working with the Kinetic Group, we are also proud that Infinity Audio, whose high-end audio systems are offered in several Kia vehicles, will join us as the Official Sponsor of the #10 Kia Forte Koup Race Car during our inaugural motorsports season.”
As part of its motorsports team development, KMA identified and partnered with the Kinetic Group to develop, build and campaign the two Forte Koup KONI Challenge spec cars. Based outside of Atlanta, Kinetic provides a comprehensive array of in-house services, including fabrication, composites, paint and body, engine, and electronics departments. Kinetic’s staff of engineers, mechanics and crew have extensive race experience in many series, including NASCAR, Indy Racing League, the American Le Mans Series and the GRAND-AM KONI Challenge Series. Completing the team, decorated drivers Andy Lally and Nic Jönsson have been secured to drive the two Forte Koup entries in the GRAND-AM KONI Challenge Series in 2010.
“We expect the Forte Koup to be a strong competitor in the GRAND-AM KONI Challenge Series starting with the first race in Daytona, and the fact that drivers of Andy and Nic’s caliber have joined the team reinforces that expectation,” said Sprague. “Building on our involvement in the GRAND-AM KONI Challenge Series and in an effort to introduce the Kia brand to even more racing fans, apparel maker GoGoGear.com has created a highly modified version of the popular Soul urban passenger vehicle which will serve as the official pace car at several races throughout the 2010 US Touring Car Championship (USTCC) season.”
About the Drivers In the last seven years, driver Andy Lally has three professional championships – 2006, 2004 and 2001 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series – and recently won the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona in the GT class. In addition to three Championships and two Rolex 24 wins, Lally currently holds the record for most top 3 and top 5 finishes in GRAND-AM Rolex Series history as well as the record for most podium finishes in a single season. He is third on the all time win list and the only three-time Rolex Series Champion. Lally also has stock car racing experience, including the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Craftsman Trucks, ARCA and Goodies Dash.