Marcus celebrates a double victory, to take the championship lead
Marcus Armstrong was the star of the show at Hampton Downs this weekend, claiming two pole positions and two sensational victories to take the points lead of Toyota Racing Series. Following his maiden win of the season last time out, the 18-year-old certainly continued his momentum as the championship reached the halfway stage.
With the weekend taking a slightly amended format, the grid faced an extended racing programme of 4 races to contest the races that were postponed due to poor weather at Teratonga. With a menu of racing action ahead and a feast of sharp hairpins and wide banked corners to tackle, the intrepid racer showed blistering pace from the first turn of a wheel, setting a sub 1 minute lap in practice.
Taking to the 2.63km Hampton Downs track for the first race on Friday afternoon, Marcus lined up 6th with plenty to play for. But in a race littered with incidents, Safety Cars and three red flag appearances it proved to be anything but plain sailing for the young racers. Pulling himself through to P5 by the end of the first lap, Marcus was on a charge, but suffering an unfortunately timed yellow flag as he made advances, he found himself foul of a yellow zone and earned a 10 second penalty. Managing to keeping his nose clean through the various incidents, he looked to reverse his fortune in the remaining three races.
Finding his fortune
With a fresh start on Saturday, Marcus dominated the day’s action in sensational style. With blistering pace, he claimed pole position with an impressive margin over his rivals. Which he went on to convert into his second race victory of the season. Echoing his qualifying pace, the young Ferrari Driver Academy star rocketed off the line and pulled a sizeable gap to the field, in a commanding race to the flag. Despite the unknown of a safety car thrown into the mix in the closing stages, Marcus kept his cool to seal his fortune.
Fresh from the seat of his winning car, Marcus celebrated:
“I just pushed the whole way and we were quite fast, I was a bit worried at the end when there was a safety car with two-three laps to go, but in the end we got the win and the points we needed. I think we can do the same tomorrow"
With the track boasting sweeping elevations and opportunities to overtake, Marcus was well poised to tackle the second race from P6 on the reverse grid. Making gains into fourth, he challenged for position throughout the 20 lap chase, piling on the pressure right to the final corners of the circuit. Crossing the line in fourth earned another strong haul of points ahead of Sunday’s crowning race.
With his sights set on claiming honours in the infamous New Zealand Motor Cup race, Marcus laid out a masterclass against the grid of talented young racers as he punched in a lockout of qualifying positions at the Hampton Downs track. With a 59.780s qualifying lap early on Sunday morning, he secured pole position for when racing got underway.
Having raced there many times, Marcus was no stranger to what it took to win on the contoured circuit:
“I prefer starting off pole, especially here, it’s a short run down to turn one and is not so easy to overtake there"
Spearheading his charge on Sunday afternoon, the extended 25 lap race offered an exciting challenge for the young Kiwi, as he eyed up the shiny pot of silverware at the end of the ribbon of tarmac. In a replay of his earlier victory, Marcus powered away with expert precision to maintain his lead. With the elements and racing incidents against him, it was anything but a straight-forward race. But even when racing was briefly halted to recover the stricken car of Lawson, Marcus timed his restart perfectly to hold off any advances from behind. Putting in a performance to be proud of, he controlled the race from lights-to-flag, claiming victory at the historic New Zealand Motor Cup. Etching his name into the impressive trophy alongside the greats of the sport, such as Bruce McLaren, Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Chris Amon, Marcus celebrated an emphatic win in style.
Speaking of his achievement, Marcus said:
“It wasn't easy conditions, it was a little bit slippery at some points. The race, however, was nicely manageable and I enjoyed it. I think Artem was coming at me with a great rate of pace, fair play to him. I just wanted to keep it on the black stuff and not bin it. This is one of the trophies I’ve really wanted, so I'm glad to have my name on it now.”
Reflecting on a dominant weekend for the Christchurch-born driver, Marcus credited the team:
"The car was fantastic from start to finish this weekend, we had an advantage from the first practice session and we’ve managed to keep it until the last lap.”
With a strong haul of points to his name, Marcus Armstrong takes the championship points lead at the halfway stage. In just a few days time, the grid takes to the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo for the penultimate round of the championship, where Marcus will be looking to extend his advantage.