I’d stake a goodly portion of what I own on Kia heading into motorsport in quite a big way in the next five years.
Not only is it on a sales role, but it has been designated Hyundai-Kia’s sporty brand. That means cars like the GT concept shown in Frankfurt will make production, and there’s the promise of hot derivates of existing models; a Kia Cee’d GTI is a near-certainty, for instance.
As we reported earlier this week, there already Kia tin-tops racing in various domestic championships. So where will we see Kia competing in the future?
I’d bet against Formula One, as it’s now too expensive and exclusive for a volume manufacturer to get much from it. Even Renault, maker of this year’s drivers’ world championship winning engine, doesn’t seem that intent on staying involved.
I’d also rule out the World Rally Championship, which saddens me as it’s the branch of motorsport I love most. Yes, competition against the like of Citroën, Ford, VW and Mini would put Kia in its competitor heartland, but I’m not convinced the WRC will ever step out of its current decade-long spiral of decline. Taking on VW wouldn’t be cheap, and there’s not much coverage to be had from success.
So where? Consistent with its stealthy rise up the sales ranks, I reckon Kia will start with some national touring car programmes, with the Cee’d, testing the waters in the likes of the BTCC, which remains cost-effective and brilliant fun. Then perhaps a DTM campaign when the GT makes production. The German touring car series would be a great way to make a statement. Imagine the positive reaction if Kia could bloody the noses of Audi, Mercedes and BMW.
If that’s a success, perhaps a Le Mans programme will follow. A single victory there would set the brand on the map in a way that perhaps no other kind of motorsport can offer. It would mark Kia out as builders of sporty, reliable and efficient cars – just the kind of straplines that matter to mass market car buyers.