Kia Forte Koup Grand-Am racer – Click above for high-res image gallery

For the first time in its history in the U.S. market, Kia is going racing in 2010. Kia announced today at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas that it has partnered with the Kinetic Group to build and compete with a pair of new Forte Koups in the 2010 Grand-Am Koni Challenge series. The Koups will be driven by Andy Lally and Nic Jönsson in the Street Tuner class of the Koni Challenge. Kia says it chose the Kinetic Group for its experience working in NASCAR, ALMS, IndyCar and, of course, the Koni Challenge.

The front-wheel-drive Kias are based on the production Forte Koup and will be running against the likes of the Mazda MX-5, Honda Civic Si and MINI Cooper. The Kias will make their debut January 8-10 at the Grand-Am test days at Daytona and then really hit the track in anger at the end of the month for the season opener as part of the Daytona 24 Hours weekend. Will the little two-door from South Korea have the racing chops to hang with other, more experienced production-based racers? Time will tell, but it's great to see Kia hop into motorsports with both feet and choose a series where its actual cars have the potential to shine.


Related GalleryKia Forte Koup Grand-Am Koni Challenge

[Source: Kia]


PRESS RELEASE

KIA MOTORS AMERICA UNVEILS U.S. MOTORSPORTS PROGRAM
  • Forte Koup Will Enter GRAND-AM KONI Sports Car Challenge Series Street Tuner (ST) Class
  • Kia Motors and Kinetic Group team up to build and campaign race cars for the automaker's first-ever auto racing efforts on U.S. soil
  • Decorated drivers Nic Jönsson and Andy Lally to pilot No. 10 Infinity Kia Forte Koup race car

LAS VEGAS (Nov. 3, 2009) – The all-new 2010 Kia Forte Koup's motto – "One Hot Ride" – took on a new meaning today as Kia Motors America (KMA) unveiled its U.S. motorsports program at the 2009 SEMA Show. KMA has teamed with the Kinetic Group to build and campaign two Forte Koups in the 2010 GRAND-AM KONI Sports Car Challenge Series in the Street Tuner (ST) class.

"The Forte Koup is the latest chapter in the dramatic Kia brand transformation story, and the decision to enter into the motorsports arena was an easy one to make," said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing, KMA. "The Forte Koup's performance-inspired styling and outstanding driving dynamics make it a natural fit for road racing, and competing in GRAND-AM's KONI Challenge series enables us to reach an entirely new and passionate base of automotive enthusiasts."

The GRAND-AM KONI Challenge ST class utilizes production-based race cars and has a wide variety of vehicles from the U.S., Europe and Asia, using weight and intake restrictions to maintain a level playing field for all entrants.

"We researched every form of auto racing in the U.S. to find a fan base that was aligned with our target demographics, and found GRAND-AM to be the perfect fit," said Sprague. "In addition to working with the Kinetic Group, we are also proud that Infinity Audio, whose high-end audio systems are offered in several Kia vehicles, will join us as the Official Sponsor of the No. 10 Infinity Kia Forte Koup Race Car during our inaugural motorsports season."

As part of its motorsports team development, KMA identified and partnered with the Kinetic Group to develop, build and campaign two Forte Koup KONI Challenge spec cars. Based outside of Atlanta, Kinetic provides a comprehensive array of in-house services, including fabrication, composites, paint and body, engine, and electronics departments. Kinetic's staff of engineers, mechanics and crew have extensive race experience in many series, including NASCAR, Indy Racing League, the American Le Mans Series and the GRAND-AM KONI Sports Car Challenge.

Completing the team, decorated drivers Nic Jönsson and Andy Lally have been secured to drive the No. 10 Infinity Kia Forte Koup entry in the GRAND-AM KONI Sports Car Challenge in 2010. Joining Jönsson and Lally are Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood, past KONI ST champions to pilot the second team race car.

"We expect the Forte Koup to be a strong competitor in the GRAND-AM KONI Challenge series starting with the first race in Daytona, and the fact that drivers of Nic and Andy's caliber along with Adam and Trevor have joined the team reinforces that expectation," said Sprague. "Building on our involvement in the GRAND-AM KONI Challenge series and in an effort to introduce the Kia brand to even more racing fans, apparel maker GoGoGear.com has created a highly modified version of the popular Soul urban passenger vehicle which will serve as the official pace car at several races throughout the 2010 US Touring Car Championship (USTCC) season."

About the Drivers
Nic Jönsson made his first professional start in 1989 and was the Scandinavian Formula 3 champion in 1990 and 1991. In 1992 he won the Scandinavian Touring Car title and finished second in the European Formula 3 cup. Jönsson has raced touring cars, sports cars and Indy cars all over the world and has competed in the American Le Mans Series as well as the SPEED World Challenge Touring car series. Jönsson, who is a highly sought-after test and development driver, scored his first GRAND-AM victory in 2005 at the Six Hours at The Glen. Outside of sports car racing, Jönsson has trained the Swedish royal family and secret-service agents in high-performance and self-defense driving. A native of Sweden, Jönsson is the co-founder and owner of Kinetic Speed Shop.

In the last seven years, driver Andy Lally has three professional championships – 2006, 2004 and 2001 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series – and recently won the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona in the GT class. In addition to three Championships and two Rolex 24 wins, Lally currently holds the record for most top 3 and top 5 finishes in GRAND-AM Rolex Series history as well as the record for most podium finishes in a single season. He is third on the all time win list and the only three-time Rolex Series Champion. Lally also has stock car racing experience, including the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, ARCA and Goodies Dash.

A past KONI ST champion, Adam Burrows had years of Spec Racer competition under his belt before deciding to move up to the highly competitive Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge, winning the ST Class Championship in his rookie season.

Trevor Hopwood had racing in his blood after earning his stripes as a winner in Spec Racers. Hopwood moved up to run in GT-1 before taking on the endurance format of KONI Challenge. The New Hampshire resident won the championship in his rookie year, and backed that up with two wins and another strong result in the championship the next season, his first year of racing a front-wheel drive machine.

About Kinetic Group

Kinetic is an automotive group that includes Kinetic Motorsports, Kinetic-Sunbelt Engines, and Kinetic Speed Shop. Kinetic Motorsports taps into every aspect of professional and amateur racing, from car builds to prep and trackside support. Every resource needed to develop, manage and run a professional race team in any series is located on-site. Kinetic-Sunbelt Engines have powered amateur and professional racers to numerous championships in North America. Kinetic Speed Shop caters to aftermarket street performance. Kinetic's 42,000 square foot, state-of-the-art showroom and race complex is located in Buford, Ga., just 15 minutes from Road Atlanta. More information can be found online at www.kssmotorsports.com.
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 650 dealers throughout the United States. For 2008, KMA recorded its 14th consecutive year of increased U.S. market share. Kia Motors subscribes to a philosophy of building high value, high quality, safe and dynamic vehicles. Kia Motors prides itself on producing vehicles that are exciting and enabling and evoke the Kia tagline "The Power to Surprise."

Kia Motors America is the "Official Automotive Partner of the NBA." Information about Kia Motors America and its full vehicle line-up is available at its Web site – HYPERLINK "http://www.kia.com" www.kia.com. For media information, including photography, visit HYPERLINK "http://www.kiamedia.com" www.kiamedia.com.