McLeod seeking RPM restoration for new Commodore

Gerard McLeod (front row, left of shot) at the start of the Trophy Race at Symmons Plains Picture: Australian Racing Group

Gerard McLeod is hopeful that Gulf Western Oils Touring Car Masters will look at restoring the original rev limit for the category engine after a challenging season-opener at Symmons Plains.

McLeod made just the second round start in the series’ first Commodore and while he finished second in the Trophy Race, which features a reversal of the top half of the grid, he struggled for top speed.

The VC, which debuted in the only TCM round of 2020, was built with the category LS2 engine option which was introduced to the series in the preceding season.

It was originally limited to 7300 RPM but early reliability problems saw that figure cut to 7000, which hampered McLeod at Symmons Plains.

While understanding of the situation which category organisers find themselves in after a year of COVID-19 disruption and recent management changes, he believes now is the time to give back the 300 RPM which were taken away.

“The Commodore was really good,” McLeod told Speedcafe.com.

“We’ve got to remember that it was in its infancy of Adelaide last year. It performed really, really well [at Symmons Plains] as far as it was ultra-reliable and there were no issues or anything like that.

“It was great to drive and we had a lot of fans up on the hill, people screaming ‘Go Commodore’ and stuff I could hear, so as far as a fan-favourite, it was really good.

“The biggest hindrance of the weekend, and I’ve been saying it to the category for a while, is that the maximum RPM limit that they’ve given for the LS spec category engine is not currently correct.

“The category spec engine had a few issues about 18 months ago when it was competing in 2019, so to get through a short-term issue with the build of the engine and the internal components, they dropped the revs right back, just to make sure they would last.

“Now what’s happened is that people like myself have built a very top class engine with better internal components, but they haven’t reissued the higher RPM limit.

“So at a track like Symmons Plains where you have a 40km/h corner to 240km/h [on the back straight], if you don’t have a big rev range, it doesn’t matter how many horsepower you’ve got, you’re just not going to make the number.

“You’re not going to make the top speed because we’ve only got a four-speed gearbox in Touring Car Masters, so I couldn’t reach a high top speed with the gearing that I had.

“Other cars that are 8000, 8500, 7500 [RPM], they can gear their car appropriately, they get good exit speed, and they’re able to run to the end of the straight, maybe just hitting the limiter, but we were hitting the limiter for 300 metres every lap.”

The Australian Racing Group acquired TCM halfway through 2019 and therefore still has not overseen it for a full season due to COVID-19 effectively spiking last year’s calendar.

Furthermore, new Category Manager Paul Taylor only commenced his tenure on January 1 of this year, and McLeod even declared that “Paul’s been fantastic,” but maintains that a change is appropriate.

“ARG’s in a difficult position because they’ve just taken on the category and they couldn’t just willy-nilly, on my recommendation, my biased recommendation, change the rules,” he acknowledged.

“I hope that from the weekend, we can give them enough data and proof to [makes changes in order to] make that engine competitive, which is what it was designed to be.

The Melbourne-based competitor also stresses that the category engine was not just intended to be a budget option, but also a competitive option for incumbents and newcomers alike.

“Some people think it was just meant to be a budget engine, the whole philosophy of that engine, but it’s not,” he added.

“It was meant to be a competitive, budget engine, and at the moment, the restriction in the RPM of that engine is not making it competitive with the other engines that are out there, not so much in horsepower but in a gearing scenario.

“It’s not just for the guys who don’t have the money; it’s for the guys who don’t want to spend the money.

“The internals that are in it could rev to 8000 RPM; I don’t think it needs that, but at the moment it’s at 7000 RPM and it mathematically can’t work out the numbers at a track like [Symmons Plains] to not be hard in the limiter for 310 metres every lap.”

John Bowe and Adam Garwood are tied for the series lead after Round 1 of TCM wrapped up on Australia Day, when each took a race win.

Following exhibition races at Baskerville on the weekend just past, the second points-paying round will support the Repco Mount Panorama 500 on February 26-28.

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