SONOMA, Calif., Aug. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Like sun-soaked grapes sprawled across the rolling hills surrounding the beautiful Raceway at Sonoma, Kia Racing's young Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) Optima program is quickly maturing and ripe for a championship run in 2013. Mark Wilkins, driver of the No. 38 Infinity Audio Optima, finished the PWC season finale on a high note, taking fourth at Sonoma, while teammate Michael Galati crossed the line fifth in the No. 38 turbocharged Optima. It was the seventh time in the twelve-race season – which was supposed to be a development year for the program – that both Optimas finished in the top ten. With the dual top-five finish, Kia claims fourth in the manufacturer's championship, Galati finishes similarly placed in the driver's championship, and the team turns its focus to 2013.
"We couldn't be happier with the season we've had in 2012. Six podiums in 12 races is a fantastic achievement for this program in its development year, and to have zero mechanical issues all season is a testament to the hard work and dedication by the entire team who built two solid racecars," said Russell Smith, co-owner, Kinetic Motorsports and the winning driver of the Kia Rio 5-door for Saturday's B-Spec race. "I want to thank Kia Motors America for providing us with a great platform in the Optima and our fans who cheer us on at every racetrack we visit. I really think with some more development over the winter that we can do great things in 2013 and beyond."
Wilkins started his No. 38 Optima in second place after a solid qualifying run on Friday and ran third for much of the 50-minute race. With a little over ten minutes to go, however, he began battling handling issues as a result of worn front tires. Finally, on the last lap, Mustang-driver Justin Bell managed to slip past and Wilkins' chances to finish the season with another podium went with him.
"What an incredible year for Kia Racing. We brought the No. 38 Infinity Audio Optima home in fourth today, but I really feel like we could have stood on the podium. We just lost the handling at the end a slipped a spot," said Wilkins. "I feel honored to be the driver of this car each weekend. It's so much fun to drive and is a threat to win at any track we visit throughout the schedule. I'm looking forward to climbing back behind the wheel come spring and making a run for a championship."
Galati in the No. 36 Infinity Audio Optima started and finished fifth Saturday, picking up his third-straight top-five finish to close out the 2012 season.
"Finishing the season with another top five is fantastic," said Galati. "The Kia Optima is such a great car. It loves purpose-built road courses with high speed corners, and we know what we need to do to make it even better for next year. We surprised some people by finishing fourth in the Manufacturer and Driver standings, but with a little more development over the off-season, I believe the Infinity Audio Optimas will be ready for more in 2013."
Kia Racing closes out its first Pirelli World Challenge season fourth in the Grand Touring Sport (GTS) points with Galati and Wilkins fourth and eighth in the Driver standings. Televised coverage of Round 12 of the Pirelli World Challenge from the Raceway and Sonoma is scheduled to air on the NBC Sports Network Sunday, September 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET. (Time and date subject to change. Check local listings).
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 and LPGA. 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