Going up against such established models as the Ford Mustang, Porsche Cayman and others, few thought the Kia Optima would be a formidable contender in the Pirelli World Challenge series. But the brand’s midsize sedan has surprised many in its rookie season, finishing fourth overall in manufacturer and driver standings for the season. Kia’s duo of seasoned drivers, Michael Galati and Mark Wilkins, have helped put the brand in a strong position for next year’s racing season.
Teammate Michael Galati, a five-time World Challenge champion, was pleased with his top-five finish at Sonoma Raceway in California on Saturday, praising the dynamics and potential of the car. “Finishing the season with another top five is fantastic,” he said. “The Kia Optima is such a great car…with a little more development in the off-season, I believe the Infiniti Audio Optimas will be ready for more in 2013.”
A Kia Rio 5 driven by Russell Smith, co-owner of Kinetic Motorsports, which also supports the World Challenge Team, took first place in the B-Spec race on Saturday.
Wilkins believed he could have taken first place were it not for some handling issues caused by worn front tires. Driver Justin Bell, driving a Ford Mustang, ultimately took first place in the Sonoma race.