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West Coast Racing ‘frustrated’ with last-minute changes

West Coast Racing has expressed frustration at the last-minute weight added to its Honda Civic cars in the opening TCR International Series meeting in Malaysia, with an extra 30 kg of weight added before the first race.

The Swedish team’s three drivers, Kevin Gleason, René Münnich and Gianni Morbidelli, put their cars on pole, fifth and sixth respectively in qualifying for the first-ever race of the new series. TCR organisers then decided to add an additional 30 kg of weight to the cars just 40 minutes before the first race, having previously added and then removed weight from the cars in Friday’s free practice session.

The first race saw poleman Gleason eventually drop to sixth, being beaten by experienced team-mate Morbidelli, who finished in fourth. Gleason had held the lead until the end of the opening lap, when he was passed by the more developed SEAT León Cup racer of eventual winner Stefano Comini. Münnich retired from the first race in the pits with technical problems.

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Greger Petersson, WestCoast Sports Promotions team owner, was vocally critical of the TCR organisers for making the change so close to the start of the race.

“It’s very frustrating to impose this ruling with just 40 minutes to go before the start of the race,” said Petersson. “Our crew worked tirelessly in the preparation of the cars and did an exceptional job, so be left without proper time to set up the cars again in the manner that we are accustomed, wasn’t the best for us. I hope that the rules can be reviewed to allow a timeframe for decisions to be properly implemented as the series develops.”

Team Manager James Nixon was pleased with the results from Saturday, which show that despite the extra weight the team – and car – are at the right end of the field and exhibiting stronger reliability than some of their other new-car rivals.

“All in the series are learning and for a first race we did a solid job and the drivers were able to perform well under the circumstances,” said Nixon. “It has been a very hard environment to work in for the team and one of our mechanics is in the medical centre after suffering from the effects of the heat during the race. So on the whole, with the way we have learnt and developed the Honda over the course of two days, I am very pleased. Finding better and better set-ups and drawing more performance from the car the more time we have with it.”

Former World Touring Car Championship driver Morbidelli added that the additional weight had caused his car to not handle as he preferred, affecting his ability to push during the race.

“I was not able to push as hard as I wanted as my balance wasn’t quite as I liked, and with the added weight it didn’t help, but we need more time with the car too make it more balanced and competitive,” concluded the experienced Italian.

Despite losing the lead on the opening lap, American Gleason expressed his enjoyment at the first race for the fledgling category, praising the close racing.

“I had great fun out there,” said Gleason. “Sure it was hard gaining the extra weight and I couldn’t really hold back the SEATs on the early laps, but I haven’t had such close racing for years and really enjoyed the battles. I need to work on my touring car racecraft and stop being so nice to the other guys, but that will come with races.”

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