IRVINE, Calif., Sept. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- After just two seasons and 20 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (CTSCC) races, Kia Motors America's motorsports program achieved championship status today when the No. 10 Infinity Audio Forte Koup crossed the finish line in seventh place and earned Nic Jonsson and Kia Racing the Driver and Team titles, respectively, for the 2011 CTSCC in the Street Tuner (ST) class. Kia and racing partner Kinetic Motorsports entered the season finale at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with narrow three-point leads in both standings and co-drivers Jonsson and Michael Galati used the Forte Koup's braking, handling and fuel-efficiency advantages on the 13-turn circuit to battle a field of more than 30 competitors during the 2.5-hour race, propelling Kia to its first-ever GRAND-AM road racing championships.
"Kia Racing recorded a number of historic firsts in 2011 and consistently exceeded everyone's expectations, and winning our first-ever GRAND-AM championship is an accomplishment the entire Kia Motors organization celebrates and takes great pride in," said Michael Sprague, vice president, marketing & communications, KMA. "Congratulations to Nic, Michael and everyone at Kinetic Motorsports whose hard work and commitment to continuous improvement led to the outstanding performance of the Infinity Audio Kia Forte Koups all season and made this achievement possible."
"Second-year motorsports programs are not supposed to win championships, but Kia Motors and Kinetic Motorsports have been committed to being the best since we formed our partnership in late-2009," said championship-winning driver Jonsson. "The Kia Forte Koups have been fantastic since getting off the truck at Daytona in January thanks to the tireless dedication of the team. We couldn't be happier with the end result, and I have to thank Michael Galati whose skill and experience was invaluable in this championship run."
After qualifying in the third position on Friday, Michael Galati maneuvered the No. 10 Forte Koup into second place at the 30-minute mark before a full course caution went into effect and all of the top five ST cars headed to pit row for a driver change and refueling. Galati climbed out, and Jonsson jumped behind the wheel for the final two hours of the race.
Jonsson returned to the track in seventh place and began moving his way through the field, eventually settling into fifth place with just over one hour remaining and repeatedly changed positions with two MINIs and two MazdaSpeed3s, who were all in the top five.
A caution-filled race kept the 71-car field bunched up tight and made for some great racing action for fans; it also made for some nervous Kia Racing supporters from the brand's research and development center in nearby Ann Arbor, MI, who made the trip to Ohio to cheer on Kia to the championship. With 30-minutes to go in the race, Jonsson executed a perfect inside pass of one of the MazdaSpeed3s and moved the No. 10 Forte Koup into fourth place. Just a few laps later, the first-place MINI lost all power and another full-course caution came out, with Jonsson now sitting in third place.
The EMCO Gears Classic returned to green-flag racing with less than 10 minutes remaining, and with the Driver and Team ST championships in sight, Jonsson cruised to a seventh-place finish as his Kinetic Motorsports teammates began celebrating Kia and Kinetic Motorsports' first-ever GRAND-AM road racing titles on pit row.
Race fans can watch Kia's championship-winning run on Sunday, September 25 at 1:00 p.m. ET on SPEED.
About Kia Motors America
Kia Motors America (KMA) 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 745 dealers throughout the United States and serves as the "Official Automotive Partner of the NBA." In 2010, KMA recorded its best-ever U.S. sales and 16th consecutive year of increased U.S. market share. Kia is poised to continue its momentum and will continue to build the brand through design innovation, quality, value, safety features and new technologies.
SOURCE Kia Motors America