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Kia Motors America’s motorsports program hit a new high last year grabbing the Team and Driver titles in the 2011 Street Tuner (ST) class in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Now they’re looking forward to 2012 with new driver pairings for both the number-10 and number-12 Infinity Audio Forte Koups.
The first race of the 2012 Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Championship season will be on January 27, 2012 at Daytona International Speedway and Kia will have Andy Lally and Nic Jönsson to lead the way. Lally returns to the Kia Racing program fresh off his 2011 Sonoco Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year performance, reuniting with ST Driver Champion Jönsson. Both drivers were last seen capturing Kia’s first-ever Grand-Am podium at Daytona in January 2011 before Lally went off to NASCAR.
Both drivers are extremely excited and looking forward to the start of the new season and defending the Driver and Team championships for Kia Racing.
They’ve only been racing two seasons, but Kia Motors America’s motorsports program has now achieved championship greatness, thanks to Nic Jönsson wining the driver’s title and solidifying Kia in the Team Championship in the Street Tuner class of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
Jönsson finished seventh overall, having started the race with a three point lead in the class standings, which was enough to secure the title.
Jönsson and co-driver Michael Galati were able to use the Kinetic Motorsports Forte Koup’s braking, handling and fuel efficiency to their advantage during the 2.5 hour race, battling a field of some 30 competitors to finish first overall in their category.
“Second-year motorsports programs are not supposed to win championships but Kia Motors and Kinetic Motorsports have been committed to being the best since we formed our partnership in late-2009,” declared championship-winning driver Jönsson. “The Kia Forte Koups have been fantastic since getting off the truck at Daytona in January thanks to the tireless dedication of the team. We couldn’t be happier with the end result, and I have to thank Michael Galati whose skill and experience was invaluable in this championship run.”
After a best finish of second during the team’s inaugural run last year, this past weekend Kia topped the podium for the first time ever in the automaker’s history.
Competing in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race, driver’s Michael Galati and Nic Jönsson piloted their No. 10 Forte Koup to first place in the Street Tuner class at Barber Motorsports Park.
After qualifying just 16th, Michael Galati brought the car into the top 10 before handing it off to his co-driver, with Jönsson then taking the lead with a half-hour left, fending off several challenges to secure the win.
“After starting the year with two top 10 results and our first podium finish, we arrived at Barber Motorsports Park with high expectations and our sights set on earning Kia’s first-ever victory,” said Michael Sprague, vice president, marketing & communications at Kia Motors America. “With the proximity to KMMG, the Barber race was a bit of a homecoming for us, and the efforts of Michael, Nic and the entire Kinetic Motorsports crew led to this tremendous milestone. Notching our first win with a large number of Kia team members and dealers cheering us on made the result even more memorable.”
Kia’s second car, driven by Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood placed in the top 10.
If you missed the historic moment, don’t worry, SPEED will show a broadcast of the Barber 200 race Saturday, April 16 at 2:00 p.m. ET
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:
Kia appears to be readying an announcement that for 2010 it will launch a motorsports initiative using the Forte Koup.
We just received a brief (very brief) email from Kia Motors America stating that the Korean automaker will, “be accelerating its brand transformation” with an announcement at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) Show next week. Included with that announcement was the above photo.
Don’t be fooled by the badges and decals, however, as this is no SEMA show car. It appears to be a race ready Forte Koup, with the colors and badging being that of Kinetic Motorsports. Kinetic has long been involved in the Grand Am series an we suspect the announcement will be a car (or team) that will compete in next year’s Koni Challenge Series.
Kinetic does also run the Kinetic Speed Shop, for street legal performance, so there is also a strong possibility that Kinetic will be offering a full line of performance parts for the Forte Koup.
If we’re really lucky, Kia will announce both.
We’ll find out for sure next Tuesday, November 3rd on the first day of the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Be sure to check back for AutoGuide’s live SEMA coverage starting then.