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Thailand marks end of title race for Gianni Morbidelli

A disastrous weekend in Thailand marked the end of West Coast Racing and Gianni Morbidelli’s challenge for the inaugural TCR International Series title, as the Italian was hit by a penalty and unreliability in the two races.

Having taken pole position, and a further five points, on Saturday, things looked optimistic for Morbidelli and his Swedish team. On top of that, team-mate Kevin Gleason put his Honda Civic third on the grid for the opening race, giving the team a realistic chance of a double podium.

“This is of course an evolution of the car we used so far, so we are not starting from zero,” explained Morbidelli after taking pole position. “There is still a lot of room for improvement, as proved by the excellent time of Kevin in the previous car, despite a 20kg success ballast. We did a long run in the free practice and everything went well.”

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Prospects for the team unravelled quickly in the first race on Sunday. A jump start for Morbidelli meant he would cede the lead of the race, dropping him down to tenth by the time he had served his punishment. Gleason got off to a poor start, allowing Craft-Bamboo Racing to lock out the podium and leaving the American to finish in fourth.

All three Hondas were hit with problems in race two, with Morbidelli suffering from an overheating engine whilst running in fourth – having started from tenth on the grid.

To make matters worse, Gleason retired from the race after contact on his right-rear wheel, whilst the third car for René Münnich suffered from a punctured radiator.

“Three DNFs is far from ideal, but both Gianni and Kevin had great pace and it was encouraging to see both the original car and the ‘Step 2’ version performing so well,” said Team Manager James Nixon. “It means there’s a lot of potential for 2016.

“Gianni took full responsibility for jumping the start and he was very apologetic, but he’s a man who makes very few mistakes.

“I think Kevin drove exceptionally well in race two and he was the fastest man after his unscheduled repair stop. Gianni’s day ended when his engine overheated as a result of the delayed start, while René was brought to a halt when a bolt from another car went through his radiator.

“As a result, there are no championships to fight for in the season finale and we can just look ahead to showing what we can do by finishing on a high in the Macau Grand Prix next month!”

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