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Tom Chilton feels Opening Race penalty was ‘extremely harsh’

Tom Chilton criticised the decision to hand him a five-second penalty in the Opening World Touring Car Championship race in Argentina as ‘extremely harsh’ after contact saw the Brit stripped of his on-the-road win.

The Sébastien Loeb Racing driver made contact with eventual winner Yann Ehrlacher at Turn 5 on the opening lap of the race, which allowed him to complete the pass on the exit of the corner.

Although Chilton went on to open up a comfortable lead over the Frenchman in the race, the stewards took a dim view of the contact and handed Chilton a penalty two laps from the end of the race.

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The subsequent five-second penalty dropped the Citroën driver to fourth and lost him what would have been a second win of the season.

Chilton was adamant after the race that the issue wasn’t over, still believing that he was in the right regarding the contact.

“It’s not over yet – you might be talking to me later as a winner,” said Chilton. “Yann and I got off to a good start and we pulled out quite a lot on Mehdi [Bennani] in third.

“I had enough time where he [Ehrlacher] was defending up the inside that I thought I could come across wide and do a switchback, which I was quite excited about as I thought I had enough room and I could do this move.

“As I did the switchback I don’t think he expected as well me to be coming in and coming that much faster – through his lack of experience – but I did a nice switchback and as I got on the power to get up the inside I took him by surprise.

“He was going for the very late apex; to be fair there’s orange tyres in the way and the extra 10 kph I’m carrying by doing the switchback, because I’d done the better line, gave me nowhere to go, due to the orange tyres on the inside.

“We lightly touched – it didn’t need to happen and if he gave me more room we wouldn’t have touched and we’d have gone through two-by-two.

“But we did touch – it didn’t end his race, it didn’t damage either of the cars, and we had a good race.

“That was, as far as I’m concerned, a lack of experience / touring car racing. It was 50:50 and I really don’t see that as a five-second penalty. Maybe three seconds, so I can still win, but not five seconds.

“I think that was extremely harsh and this isn’t over yet.”

Despite the lost win, Chilton has moved up to sixth overall in the drivers’ championship standings ahead of fellow independent Citroën driver Rob Huff. He is also tied with both Huff and Bennani at the top of the WTCC Trophy standings on 87 points.

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