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Kia has been promoting its first entry into motorsports in the U.S. in a big way since the Korean automaker first introduced its Forte Koupe race car at the SEMA Show last year. Prior to the green flag at Daytona Speedway, kicking off the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season (formerly Koni Challenge), Kia was working hard to drum up excitement for its two-car effort. And why shouldn’t they, with the vehicles being built by Kinetic and the driver’s including such names as Andy Lally and Nic Jönsson in the #10 car.
Well, things didn’t go quite as Kia had planned with Lally and Jönsson completing just 25 laps for a dismal 31st place in the ST class. The No. 12 car of Trevor Hopwood and Adam Burrows, a duo which clinched the 2007 Grand Am ST class championship, placed significantly better in 19th, but hardly in the running with average speeds well below the front runners.
Kia’s commitment to Grand-Am and to racing isn’t likely to be discouraged by the results, however, as the Korean automaker plans to use motorsports to help build the brand into one that is seen as sporty and desirable – particularly by young males.
We’ll look to see more from the Kia team in the future with the next Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge taking place March 5-6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
GALLERY: Kia Forte Koup Race Car
Official release after the jump:
Racing veterans Andy Lally and Nic Jönsson to drive for Kia in 2010 Koni Challenge series.
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: