IRVINE, Calif., Feb. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Kia Racing and its racing partner Kinetic Motorsports today announced its driver line-up for the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) season. Veteran Nic Jönsson, who scored Kia's first professional road racing championship behind the wheel of a Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (CTSCC) Kia Forte Koup in 2011, will pilot the No. 36 turbocharged Optima, while quick Canadian Mark Wilkins retains his seat in the No. 38 turbocharged Optima after a stellar rookie season in 2012 in which he claimed a pole, a win and two podiums for Kia Racing. Jönsson, Wilkins and the Kia Racing team are currently preparing the turbocharged Optimas for the March 23rd PWC season opener at the Streets of St. Petersburg.
"The Kia Racing team far-exceeded our expectations in our first year of competition in the Pirelli World Challenge, posting two wins and six podium finishes with a perfect record of reliability," said Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing and communications, KMA. "Now that the development year is behind us and off-season testing has gone well, we're excited to build on our strong first-year results and, perhaps, make a run at the 2013 championship."
With Kia Racing stepping back from Grand-Am competition this year to focus on its Pirelli World Challenge Optima program, Jönsson – who, along with his CTSCC Kia Forte Koup co-driver Andy Lally, narrowly missed giving the brand its second Grand-Am championship last season – makes the leap to the larger and more powerful turbocharged Optima. It's a seat with which he's familiar, however, having handled test-driving duties for an abbreviated development program prior to the car's 2012 debut and then returned to the role during the preparations for 2013.
"Running up to the 2012 season, I felt strongly the Optima would be very competitive in the GTS class, despite how little time we had in the car before the first race, and I was pleased to see it perform so well. Now, with a year of development behind us, the 2013 season is our time to take the fight to our competition," said Jönsson, following a recent testing session. "I am looking forward to teaming up with Mark Wilkins throughout the year. The Pirelli World Challenge is a fantastic series featuring a very competitive field with cars and drivers from many different manufacturers, and we're going to make sure that Kia takes its rightful place among those world-famous performance brands."
Canadian driver Wilkins returns to Kia Racing after joining the team mid-season last year. Almost on arrival, he took the series by storm, qualifying on pole and capturing a victory and podium finish at his home track, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Wilkins' consistent performance and methodical approach was crucial in the development of the Optima racecar and has the team ready to run with the best this season.
"After the success we had in our rookie season, I'm elated to be back behind of the wheel of the turbocharged Optima for 2013," said Wilkins. "I'm looking forward to working with Nic after years of competing against him on the race track. With the great team we already have in place, I'm confident we will raise the bar for Kia Racing and hopefully make some noise in the GTS class."
Kia Racing kicks off the 2013 PWC with rounds 1-2 in St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 23-24. Race fans can watch live coverage of the races online at www.world-challengetv.com and catch the latest news and updates from the Kia Racing Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kiaracing.
Kia: One of the World's Fastest Moving Global Automotive Brands
Kia Motors America is one of only three auto brands to increase U.S. sales in each of the past four years, and in 2012 the company surpassed the 500,000 unit mark for the first time. With a full line of fun-to-drive cars and CUVs, Kia is advancing value to new levels of sophistication by combining European-influenced styling – under the guidance of chief design officer Peter Schreyer – with cutting-edge technologies, premium amenities, affordable pricing and the lowest cost of ownership in the industry. Kia recently joined the exclusive ranks of Interbrand's "Top 100 Best Global Brands," and is poised to continue its momentum with seven all-new or significantly redesigned vehicles scheduled to arrive in showrooms in 2013. Over the past decade Kia Motors has invested more than $1.4 billion in the U.S., including the company's first U.S. assembly plant in West Point, Georgia – Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia – which is responsible for the creation of more than 11,000 plant and supplier jobs. The success of the U.S.-built* Optima and Sorento in two of the industry's largest segments has fueled Kia's rapid growth and is complemented by Kia's comprehensive lineup which includes the Soul urban passenger vehicle, Sportage compact CUV, Optima Hybrid, the Forte sedan, 5-door and Koup compacts, Rio and Rio 5-door sub-compacts and the Sedona minivan.
About Kia Motors America
Kia Motors America is the marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles through more than 765 dealers throughout the United States and serves as the "Official Automotive Partner" of the NBA. In 2012, KMA recorded its best-ever annual sales total and gained U.S. market share for the 18th consecutive year. Kia is poised to continue its momentum and will continue to build the brand through design innovation, quality, value, advanced safety features and new technologies.
Information about Kia Motors America and its full vehicle line-up is available at its website – www.kia.com. For media information, including photography, visit www.kiamedia.com.
SOURCE Kia Motors America