For many years, costs have also been rising relentlessly at the base of motorsport. The Portuguese Kia GT Cup, in which slightly modified Picanto and Ceed race wildly, shows how to escape from the spiral while still offering entertaining sport.
Not only visually, but also because of the smell of the Kia GT Cup, it is immediately clear: These are completely normal cars. Every time the racing Picanto races through the challenging chicanes of the Vila Real street circuit in northern Portugal, a smoky scent of the brakes working at the limit wafts into the fans' nostrils. However, what normal drivers would quickly panic about is part of the concept for the Kia GT Cup. Except for safety features, everything is original here - high-performance parts are an unnecessary luxury.
The Portuguese Kia importer and the racing service provider CRM Motorsport had the idea for the down-to-earth one-make cup a little more than five years ago. As a reaction to rising costs and a lack of entry opportunities in the local scene, they developed a concept that at first glance seemed too good to be true: for around 25,000 euros you not only got a race-ready Kia Picanto GT-Line, but also plenty of team supplies and registration for the races. Anyone who joined the debut season in 2018 was able to spread the costs over five years - that's a paltry 5,000 euros per season. Together with spare parts, tires, fuel and travel costs, the amount is about the same again.
Parallel rally approval
Tiago Carvalho, after-sales director at Kia Portugal, emphasizes: "They are stock cars - so they correspond to the production version. We only swapped the suspension and tuned the control unit a bit." The resourceful technicians got an additional 50 horsepower out of the supercharged 1.0 T-GDI engine, which normally has 100 hp. The front-wheel drive Picanto, freed from unnecessary interior, weighs 960 kilograms. A five-speed gearbox handles the power transmission. The corresponding shift knob and the steering wheel come directly from the street counterpart.
In addition to a protective cage with FIA homologation, the safety equipment also includes a fire extinguisher and a window net. Professional seats, sports rims and an integrated onboard camera ensure the necessary sporty atmosphere. Thanks to the associated certification, the Picanto are also permitted for rally events. Many participants get their money's worth twice over. "We especially want to give newcomers a chance. So far there hasn't been a real intermediate stage after the time in karting," explains Carvalho.
Classic circuits, new Ceed project
With Braga, Estoril, Portimão and Vila Real, the last race calendars included all the classic circuits on the Portuguese scene.If the pandemic situation permits, they also travel to the Circuito de Jerez in neighboring Andalusia once a year. Although the organizers therefore consider themselves an Iberian format, the focus is currently on Portugal - all riders hail from the westernmost country in continental Europe. As a private importer, you are also independent of the sporting decisions of the global corporation. The makers proudly report that there is no modern sprint championship with a better price-performance ratio.
After the Über-Picanto had quickly enjoyed great popularity with over 20 offshoots sold, the field was expanded a few years ago to include a slightly more expensive racing version of the Kia Ceed. The compact Korean costs a total of 45,000 euros, but a Zadev gearbox and AP brakes are installed. Whether the Ceed will lead a wild horde of Picanto in the coming year is not yet clear - the five-year span described at the beginning expires after the current season. If it were up to Tiago Carvalho and his team, there is much to be said for continuing the project.