ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Returning to the site of its Pirelli World Challenge debut one year ago, Kia Racing enjoyed a strong run on the Streets of St. Petersburg for Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2013 season. Drivers Nic Jonsson (No. 36) and Mark Wilkins (No. 38) scored back-to-back top-ten finishes in their Kinetic Motorsport-prepared turbocharged Optimas, including a top-five finish for Jonsson in Round 2 on Sunday. Wilkins, with a pair of sixth-place finishes leaves St. Pete ranked fifth in the Drivers Championship, and Kia sits third in the Grand Touring Sports (GTS) class Manufacturers title chase.
"Coming to a temporary street circuit where we have only raced once before was a bit of a challenge, but to leave with four top-ten finishes, including one top five, is a great accomplishment for us and gives the team momentum right from the start of the season," said Jonsson. "The No. 36 turbocharged Optima was extremely quick all weekend, the Kinetic Motorsports crew did a great job of making adjustments between races, and our top-five finish is a testament to their hard work."
Both turbocharged Optimas performed very consistently throughout the weekend, maintaining a 100-percent reliability record that started with the vehicles' competition debut at this race a year ago. Jonsson and Wilkins finished Round 1 where they qualified: eighth and sixth, respectively. But Jonsson's run to eighth involved more than just holding station, as he was assessed a penalty just prior to the race, which forced him to start from the back of the grid and charge through the GTS field to score valuable championship points.
Round 2 on Sunday featured the threat of rain and the crowd-favorite standing start, as opposed to the rolling start used in Round 1. The grid for the weekend's second race was set by lap times from the previous day's race, which put Jonsson and Wilkins starting sixth and seventh, respectively. As the 40-car field barreled down the front straight, engines roaring, one of the Realtime Acura TSXs wedged between the Optimas, running three-wide with Jonsson and Wilkins into a heavily congested turn one.
"The standing start always gets your heart rate going an extra beat or two as you sit in the car and stare down into an empty turn one, but once we got a couple laps in and got the tires up to temperature, we were able to spread the field out a little and run our race," said Wilkins. "The No. 38 turbocharged Optima ran really well all weekend, and I think we have some good notes to apply to (the Grand Prix of) Long Beach (Calif.) next month and look to repeat on the podium there."
Although there was some car-to-car and car-to-barrier contact during the event, the entire 50-minute contest was run without a single full-course caution. When the checkered flag finally waved, Jonsson and Wilkins crossed the line nose-to-tail in fifth and sixth place, respectively.
With a successful weekend in the books, the team returns to Kinetic Motorsports' shop in Buford, Ga., to prepare for Round 3 of the PWC on the Streets of Long Beach, Calif., on Sunday, April 21. Kia Motors America (KMA) will be the presenting sponsor of the Long Beach PWC race, which is just up the road from the KMA corporate campus in Irvine, Calif.
Televised coverage of Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2013 PWC from St. Petersburg is scheduled to air Sunday, April 7 at 12:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network. Race fans can always tune in online for live race coverage at www.world-challengetv.com, and catch the latest news and updates from the track at www.facebook.com/kiaracing and can follow the team on Twitter at @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. To receive custom email notifications for press releases the moment they are published, subscribe at http://www.kiamedia.com/us/en/newsalert.
* The Sorento and Optima GDI (EX Trims and certain LX Trims only) and GDI Turbo are built in the United States from U.S. and globally sourced parts.
SOURCE Kia Motors America