• With a podium and top-five finish in his debut for Kia Racing, Ben Clucas prepares to make his first street-circuit start since 2008 and first ever behind the wheel of the No. 36 DonorsChoose.org Optima turbo
• Kia Racing veteran Mark Wilkins will make his 11th start on a street circuit in the No. 38 B.R.A.K.E.S. Optima turbo
Having successfully launched its defense of the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) Grand Touring Sport (GTS) Manufacturer Championship with a podium and a top-five finish during the season opener at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, Kia Racing charges into St. Petersburg, Florida, for rounds three and four knowing that the only street circuit on the 2015 PWC schedule poses a unique set of challenges – especially for the only front-wheel-drive cars in the field. But extensive off-season development work, concentrating on the handling and braking capabilities of the No. 36 and No. 38 turbocharged Optimas, combined with four consecutive years of racing experience on St. Pete's narrow streets, has the team feeling good about the trip to Florida.
"This being our fourth visit to St. Petersburg with the racing Optimas, we have accumulated a lot of technical data over the years, and not just from here but other street courses in general," said Russell Smith, team owner, Kinetic Motorsports, Kia Motors America's (KMA) official racing partner. "We've had success on temporary street courses before, so we know the Optima is capable of running up front. We just haven't had the best racing luck at St. Pete, but we are confident in our off-season developments – and we have the driving talent to get the most out of the cars."
Kia Racing has defied the odds to score wins on the streets of Detroit, Long Beach (California), and Toronto in previous years. Because of their often bumpy, inconsistent surfaces and tight corners, street circuits are notoriously difficult for teams as they search for the ideal compromise setup between stability and quickness, and for drivers as they thread the needle at high speed between concrete walls that loom just inches off the racing line. The St. Petersburg course is no different, and the Optima's long wheelbase and front-wheel-drive configuration – often assets on longer, more flowing permanent road courses – make street circuits that much more difficult.