After a solid showing in 2010, Kia is readying a team of Kia Forte Koups for the 2011 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series, which kicks off on January 28 in Daytona, Fla. The race cars, developed in conjunction with Kinetic Motorsports, compete in the series' Street Tuner class.
"Our primary objectives in 2010 were to get the Kia Forte Koups on the track and learn as much as we possibly could at every opportunity while also making improvements as the season progressed to be consistent and competitive for a first-year program," said Christian Rushforth, Kinetic Motorsports' Kia project engineer.
That approach was much in evidence last year, as the Kia team finished 19th and 31st in its first race, then continued to leverage its experiences'”through the development of improved headers, a new final drive gear, a lighter flywheel/clutch assembly, an improved exhaust system and more'”to become increasingly competitive as the season continued. All told, the Koups ended 2010 with two top five finishes and six top 10 finishes, led two races, and boosted Kia to fifth place in the engine manufacturer standings.
Perhaps just as importantly, members of the Kia racing team also put up a strong performance as "brand ambassadors" in 2010, helping to both increase awareness of the Koup and support the launch of the turbocharged Kia Optima SX.
The former, a more sporting companion to the Kia Forte sedan, is the automaker's first coupe and delivers a notable mix of dynamic driving and positive fuel-efficiency numbers. EX models offer a 2.0-liter I4 engine that makes 156 hp/144 lb-ft of torque and attains EPA ratings of up to 25 mpg city/34 mpg highway with a six-speed automatic transmission, or 24/33 when packing a six-speed manual. The Forte Koup SX brings a more powerful, 2.4-liter mill, worth 173 hp/168 lb-ft of torque, while achieving EPA numbers of 22/32 (manual) or 23/31 (automatic).
The Optima is Kia's first turbocharged vehicle to go on sale in the U.S., and it, too, combines high power'”274 hp/186 lb-ft of torque'”with high EPA ratings, in this case up to 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway.
In tandem with the automaker's racing efforts, the Forte Koup and Optima turbo are further indications of how Kia will continue reaching out to customers looking for an athletic driving experience.
"We are proud of the great strides and accomplishments the Kia racing team made in its first year, and as we look forward to a fantastic season of racing in 2011, we are also finding new and innovative ways to showcase our racing efforts to enthusiasts and proud Kia owners across the country," said Michael Sprague, marketing & communications, Kia Motors America.