Kia Motors America will take a step back from the GTS class of Pirelli World Challenge in 2016, and will reduce its effort in the championship to the Touring Car A class (TCA).
It ends a four-year run in the GTS class, when the Kia Optima Turbo was introduced in 2012. The TCA program will continue; Jason Wolfe has won the last two driver’s championships with his Kia Forte Koup, and Kia won the 2014 Manufacturer’s Championship
In a statement issued to Sportscar365, Kia released the following:
“In six years of road racing in the U.S., Kia Motors America, and its racing partner Kinetic Motorsports, won seven championships, and every Kia model that raced during that period won a national title, from the Rio 5-door in SCCA B-Spec to the Forte Koup and Optima turbo in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC).
“Kia is proud of our team and drivers for their outstanding achievements, and we thank them for their hard work and dedication to the brand.
“We will be stepping back from our factory-supported PWC Grand Touring Sport effort in the U.S. in 2016 but will continue to support Kinetic’s championship-winning privateer program in the Touring Car A class.
“With exciting, new, rear-wheel drive product in our pipeline, we’re also looking forward to a return to the track in the near future.”
The manufacturer’s best season in GTS came in 2014, when Kia won the GTS Manufacturer’s Championship, and Mark Wilkins was on the verge of securing the driver’s championship before a nightmare final weekend of the season at then-Miller Motorsports Park in Utah dropped him to third behind champion Lawson Aschenbach and Jack Baldwin.
Wilkins is known to be exploring his options for 2016 and is likely to continue with CORE autosport for its Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup program in IMSA.
Nic Jonsson stepped back from driving this season in World Challenge, although continued with longtime co-driver Tracy Krohn in that team’s European Le Mans Series and 24 Hours of Le Mans effort. Ben Clucas replaced Jonsson in the team’s No. 36 entry.
Clucas and Wilkins finished seventh and eighth in GTS this season, and Kia was fifth in the Manufacturer’s Championship. Wilkins posted his and the car’s lone win, incidentally, at his and Kia’s previous house of horrors in Utah.