Moroso 24 Hour Race
Most of us dream of going to The Twenty Four Hours of Le Mans - exotic prototype racecars flashing by in the dark at speeds over 200 mph and exotic french women hanging around the pit entrance hoping for a glimpse of a famous driver.
So when Kia Motors America and the Dave Wolin Motorsports Team told us about the twenty four hour race for production, improved touring and showroom stock cars at Moroso International Raceway in Florida on New Year’s weekend, we jumped at the opportunity to be involved.
Wolin built a Kia Sephia for the showroom stock C class and was prepared to do battle with a variety of comparable cars for a class victory. While Kia had been very successful in Pro Rally in the U.S., this marked their first venture into road racing and was strictly a test to determine any future racing involvement.
The field of 56 cars ranged from the unusual Consulier through a gaggle of assorted improved touring Nissans and Volkswagens to even a Ford Fiesta. Nothing would be flashing by at over 200 mph, nor would anyone exotic be hanging around the pit entrance. At Moroso, the sign next to the pit entrance warns you to watch out for alligators !
Endurance racing sometimes doesn’t emphasize overall speed as the strategy of pit stops and fuel economy play a great part in determining the outcome. And while our Kia wasn’t the fastest car there, we figured to make it up in pit work and driving.
Wolin assembled a professional team of drivers: Barber - Dodge veteran John McCaig, Formula Atlantic specialist Jay Poscente and endurance driver Peter Workum. The competition in our class was stiff; a pair of well - prepared Neons looked to be the major threat.
A the start, driver Poscente hung back under orders from team manager Wolin. "Let the hotshots all crash in turn one; we’ve got 24 hours to go". And the hotshots did, bringing out yellow flags with regularity.
The Kia ran flawlessly, stopping for fuel and a driver change every hour and a half, running a solid third behind the Neons. The excitement began around the eight hour mark. With John McCaig at the wheel, a slower car suddenly moved in front of him in the middle of turn nine, forcing our Kia into the tire wall. As the driver radioed in a damage assessment, the crew got ready with new struts, wheels and crowbars. Fortunately, nine laps later we were back on the track, looking a bit worse for wear but running strongly.
At the midpoint of the race, one Neon fell by the wayside with terminal mechanical problems, moving our Kia into second place in the class. While the car looked battered, it was running as well as ever and at each stop picked a few seconds off the Neon lead.
By dawn, we were close behind in second, made an amazing two minute brake pad change and continued motoring on. The real story came in the other classes - As the sun rose, many of the pit areas resembled junkyards as cars made major repairs and came back out on the track, sometimes hours behind. The Consulier had the overall lead, closely followed by an Audi Turbo.
And the race finally ended; 24 hours later with our Kia second in class and way ahead of a lot of other cars. The Consulier won overall but the Kia people were happy - You could either buy 1 Consulier for $125,000 or about 12 Kia Sephia’s.