The Kia Optima is headed to the World Challenge next year. Kia has announced that it will once again partner up with Kinetic Motorsports, this time to build a pair of Optima SX models to go fender to fender with the rest of the World Challenge field. The two turbocharged sedans will compete in the Grand Touring Sport Class against vehicles like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, if you can believe that.

If you're thinking those two are going to make short work of the Optima, you may want to think again. Kia has already managed to earn a driver and team championship in the two years that it's been racing the Forte in the States, and the company recently announced the Rio 5-Door would be competing, as well. These guys aren't just out there to parade their badge around the track.

The World Challenge series pits great drivers against each other in race-prepped versions of production vehicles on some of the country's best road courses. The series campaigns at Infineon, Road Atlanta and the street circuit at Long Beach. Look for the races to show up on the NBC Sports Network this year. Hit the jump for the full press release from Kia.
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KIA RACING ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR TWO TURBOCHARGED OPTIMAS TO COMPETE IN THE 2012 PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE CHAMPIONSHIPS

Championship-Winning Motorsports Program Expanding to New Series in Third-Year
• Kia and Kinetic Motorsports continue partnership to build and campaign two Optima SXs in World Challenge
• Additional motorsports activities for 2012 include B-Spec racing with the all-new 2012 Rio 5-door and Optima Hybrid serving as the official pace car at United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) events

LOS ANGELES, November 16, 2011 – It took the Kia Racing program just two seasons and 20 starts to capture Kia Motors America's (KMA) first-ever championships in the 2011 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, and today at the Los Angeles Auto Show the company announced a major motorsports expansion for 2012 with two turbocharged Optimas set to enter the Pirelli World Challenge Championships. Continuing KMA's successful partnership with Kinetic Motorsports, the World Challenge Optima SXs will compete in the Grand Touring Sport (GTS) class alongside established nameplates such as Mustang and Camaro at world-class race tracks across North America, including Road Atlanta, the street circuit in Long Beach, Calif., and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

"As a brand with no previous racing experience in America, for Kia to win two motorsports championships in just its second year is an incredible accomplishment, and expanding our motorsports footprint with the turbocharged Optima entering World Challenge will continue to build passion and enthusiasm for the brand with an entirely new fan base at different race tracks across the country," said Michael Sprague, vice president, marketing & communications, KMA. "With its aerodynamic styling and outstanding driving dynamics, the Optima SX should be well suited to the ultra-competitive environment of World Challenge racing."

Sanctioned by SCCA Pro Racing, World Challenge features world-class drivers and race-prepped versions of production vehicles from many of the world's most popular manufacturers. The Kia Optimas will be the first Korean vehicles to compete in the series – which includes a suspenseful standing start rather than the more common rolling start – and is known for exciting door-to-door action throughout the 50-minute sprint races. For 2012, World Challenge races will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network.