IRVINE, Calif., March 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Kia Motors America (KMA) will become the first Korean manufacturer to compete in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC), and together with racing partner Kinetic Motorsports, Kia Racing has assembled a world-class driver lineup for the 2012 season, which begins on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, March 24. Fresh off his 2011 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Team title, five-time World Challenge Drivers' champion Michael Galati will drive the No. 36 Optima SX in the GTS class. Racing side-by-side with Galati will be Kia Racing's newest team member, 23-year-old Colin Braun, driving the No. 38 Optima.
"The Kia Racing team and Kinetic Motorsports have performed incredibly well in just three years of professional competition and launching the Optima Turbo into World Challenge marks another exciting step in the growth of our brand," said Michael Sprague, vice president, marketing & communications, KMA. "With the talent we have behind the wheel and in the shop, Kia Racing has become a world-class motorsport organization, and everyone at Kia is looking forward to being a part of it for 2012."
With his 2011 GRAND-AM championships now in the record books, driver Michael Galati is ready to get the World Challenge season rolling. "Getting to drive for Kia Racing and Kinetic Motorsports again is a fantastic opportunity," said Galati. "We experienced great success last year in GRAND-AM with the Forte Koup winning Kia's first-ever road racing championship, and hopefully we can keep that momentum going in World Challenge with this new turbocharged Optima racecar. The car already handles exceptionally well and is incredibly fast, despite the limited testing we've done. I can't wait to get on the track at St. Pete."
Bringing a diverse background to the Kia Racing program that ranges from open-wheel formula cars all the way to NASCAR stockers, Colin Braun joins the team having amassed 17 years of competitive driving success. Braun's racing resume includes stints in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series with Krohn Racing, the NASCAR Nationwide Series with Roush-Fenway Racing and, most recently, the Camping World Truck Series with Billy Ballew Motorsports.
"I'm really looking forward to being a part of such a successful team, and to play a role in Kia's expansion into World Challenge is truly exciting," said Braun. "The Kia Optima Turbo racecar is absolutely stunning and while it's still very early in its development, I'm totally psyched for the 2012 season and showing this car off around the country to all the World Challenge fans."
With two Optima Turbo sedans assembled at Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) and two highly-skilled drivers on the team, spirits are running high for the team as Kia's PWC debut nears. Kia and Kinetic Motorsports will salute the team members who work at the automaker's assembly plant in West Point, Ga., on Tuesday, March 27 for the first public unveiling of the racecars.
"Kinetic Motorsports is very excited with KMA's expansion of its racing program to include the turbocharged Optimas in World Challenge. The task of developing the Optima into a competitive GTS car is a challenge that we are looking forward to," said Russell Smith, owner of Kinetic Motorsports. "Together with the Optima World Challenge, the B-Spec Rio entering at the grassroots level and the No. 10 and 12 Forte Koups defending their GRAND-AM titles, it should make for a very busy year for us and an entertaining one for Kia Racing fans everywhere."
Round 1 and 2 of the 2012 PWC season kick off at the Streets of St. Petersburg on Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25. Check out live race status, photos, and updates at facebook.com/kiaracing and watch live race streaming at world-challengetv.com. Race fans can also tune in to see the racing action on the new NBC Sports Network on Sunday, April 8 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
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 755 dealers throughout the United States and serves as the "Official Automotive Partner of the NBA." In 2011, KMA recorded its best-ever annual sales total and became one of the fastest growing car companies in the U.S. 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.
SOURCE Kia Motors America