Marcus extends TRS lead at the halfway point
In the blistering summer heat, Kiwi favourite Marcus Armstrong continued his formidable form in the Toyota Racing Series, earning another trio of podiums at Hampton Downs this weekend. Setting the bar for his rivals, the championship leader extended his run of appearing on every podium of the season so far.
Offering up a combination of sharp hairpins and wide, banked corners, the 2.63km Hampton Downs track set the scene as the championship reached the halfway stage. Where Marcus showed no signs of slowing his title campaign, climbing the podium steps in each of the three challenging races.
Setting the pace early on in qualifying on Saturday morning, the Ferrari Young Driver lead for much of the two sessions, just pipped to pole position, by a tantalisingly narrow margin.
Launching as the lights went out for the opening race from 3rd, the talented racer pulled alongside Correa in the short run into the first corner. Taking the position, he soon set after challenging pole-sitter Verschoor, chasing his tail throughout the opening laps. As he piled on the pressure, his rival soon made a mistake, Marcus eagerly relished the change to take the lead. But with temperatures rising and his car struggling in the heat, was forced to hold his advances and settle for a strong 2nd place finish.
“I think I should’ve won as we had the pace, but I had to back off and get out of his slip-stream as the water temperature started going up. It was bloody hot out there.”
Starting from 5th on the reverse grid race on Sunday morning, Marcus clinched a position at the start and hooked into the back of third placed Shwartzman, before a collision brought an early red flag. With a healthy lead in the championship and another podium in his sights, the teenager was hot on the heels of his nearest title rival at the restart. Skirmishing in thrilling style, the two fought for every inch of track, kissing wheels slightly at one point. Understanding the value of consistent results and showing true maturity, Marcus settled on a steady points haul in 4th. Later promoted to 3rd , following a post-race penalty for Correa.
Turning attention to the New Zealand Motor Cup race, Marcus was hungry for victory. With a mighty sprint off the line from 2nd, the Kiwi put his nose ahead as he and Verschoor ran wheel to wheel into the first sweeping corner. Ducking behind the Dutchman, who had the inside line, Marcus expertly held off challenge from behind whilst limiting the gap to leader. With the appearance of a safety car to recover Leitch’s damaged car, Marcus never lost focus as the grid prepared to take the restart.
Pushing to the limit, on a track that offers small opportunities for overtaking, Marcus filled Verschoor’s mirrors to the flag. Despite chancing one final lunge with just two laps remaining, he was unable to make the pass, sealing off another mighty weekend with 2nd place.
Speaking of his valiant efforts, Marcus reviewed his progress:
“I’m frustrated not to have won as we had the pace, but Richard did a good job. I had a chance when he made a mistake at Turn 5, he was really feeling the pressure. But we extended the points lead, the car was mega all weekend and at this point I’m happy with how we finished."
Standing in a strong position at the halfway point:
“The team has been great and I’m extremely happy with everything and how it’s going, so I’m not going to change my approach”
With 591 points to his title campaign, Marcus Armstrong leads Shwartzman by 41 points ahead of the fourth round at Taupo on 2nd-4th February.