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Five Cool Facts About Kia Racing

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 11/16/2014 Bruce Benedict, Zach Gale

After 20 years in the U.S., Kia's ambitions extend far beyond offering eyebrow-raising 420-hp luxury sedans. To mark five years in professional motorsports, Kia hosted an event at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch outside of Las Vegas to give us a taste of the automaker's racing efforts, even getting us behind the wheel of the Kia Forte Koup race cars that compete in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) Touring Car A class. Making the decision to invest in racing wasn't one Kia took lightly -- keep reading to learn more about the automaker's efforts.


Kia Forte Koup PWC Race Car Driver Profile In Motion© Provided by MotorTrend Kia Forte Koup PWC Race Car Driver Profile In Motion 1. One of Kia's primary directives in its first racing season was to finish races -- something that can be easier said than done. Having frequent breakdowns on the track would reinforce the very perception Kia is still trying to eradicate, people who associate the brand with mid-1990s Sephias and Sportages that may not have been as reliable as contemporary class-leaders. To that effect, Kia says it had just one engine issue during its first year on the track, and over the last five years has experienced some successes too.

2. Kia insists racing is a brand-building endeavor that can actually influence people who aren't enthusiastic about motorsports. Effectively communicating racing wins is like the motorsports equivalent of the K900 luxury sedan -- it's another way of establishing parity between Kia and respected nameplates that have been around far longer.

Kia Optima PWC Race Car Rear Three Quarter In Motion 2© Provided by MotorTrend Kia Optima PWC Race Car Rear Three Quarter In Motion 2 3. Where would Kia's Scott McKee like to see Kia Racing in five to 10 years? Aside from continuing to be as successful as the brand has been, McKee mentions higher classes of sports car racing as well as developing a grassroots racing scene, something Mazda has benefitted from for years.

4. Driving a Kia Forte Koup race car isn't at all difficult, except for maybe getting inside. Though the Forte Koup race car I drove clearly wasn't designed for a six-foot, four-inch tall automotive journalist like me, once inside, the car is entertaining and easy to drive. The Forte Koup's turbocharged 1.6-liter I-4 makes about 201-210 hp and has a freer-flowing straight exhaust, brake system upgrades, and shocks. What hasn't changed from the street car to the race car? The familiar chime a production-spec Kia makes when you turn off the vehicle.

Kia Optima PWC Race Car Front Three Quarter View On Track 7© Provided by MotorTrend Kia Optima PWC Race Car Front Three Quarter View On Track 7 5. Kia has been approached before about opening up a racing school. Racing schools can be a good way to better connect actual racing efforts with public perception of the brand, though, as with everything, it comes at a financial cost. While Kia isn't ready to divulge any details on this subject, McKee suggests coming to a future SEMA show for more details on Kia Racing's next moves. Considering that's where Kia first announced its plans to enter professional motorsports, in 2009, we'll be watching to see what the brand has in store.

Tell us: Do you think more positively about automakers that invest in professional motorsports?

The PWC Kia Forte Koup and Kia Optima race cars are pictured below.

Pirelli World Championship Kia Model Lineup 2

Pirelli World Championship Kia Model Lineup 2
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