Marcus kicks off 2019 with a trio of podiums
Ready and raring to race, Marcus Armstrong kicked off his 2019 season this weekend, in his native New Zealand. Following a strong campaign last year in which he led the Toyota Racing Series until the final race, winning 2 races and claiming 10 podiums, Marcus returned with unfinished business.
Setting the pace
Taking place over 5 weekends, across the cream of New Zealand’s historic racing circuits, the talented field of drivers kicked off the action this weekend at Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell. Displaying his talent from the off, the Christchurch-born driver was quick to punch in some strong lap times ahead of qualifying, ending fastest
overall with a blistering 1:28.926 lap. Confident in his abilities, he ran consistently at the sharp end of the timings once qualifying got underway on Saturday. But despite initially claiming pole position, it was narrowly deemed that he had set the lap under yellow flag conditions, which unfortunately saw him dealt a three place grid penalty. Still with a strong starting position from fourth on the grid, Marcus had it all to play for when racing began.
Pushing for podiums
Thrilling the crowds on Saturday afternoon, Marcus spearheaded his charge off the line, was soon in third and mounting his challenge on polesitter Hyman ahead. Pulling away from the pack, he focussed on making gains on Hyman, challenging at every opportunity sealing the move on lap 12. With the leader benefitting from the duelling pair behind, unfortunately the gap was too far to close and Marcus settled with a strong drive to claim second place.
Resetting for the reverse grid race on Sunday morning, Marcus found himself in a similar position, starting from fifth on the grid and it all to fight for. With racing halted before it really began, due to a first lap tangle, the pack eventually resumed behind the safety car. Immediately on the charge at the restart, eager to make up ground, Marcus joined the hunt for third place. In a thrilling 4-way battle, the Kiwi ensured he was right in the thick of the action. His patience paid off when ahead, Auer collided with the wall and brought his race to an end, further post-race penalties ensured that Marcus went on to claim his second podium of the weekend.
Three for three
With storm clouds threatening all day, the track took a heavy soaking ahead of the ‘Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup' race on Sunday afternoon. Lining up on the front row after another strong qualifying performance, Marcus rapidly applied the pressure on the pole sitter, whilst holding the challenge from Lawson. Judging his lines perfectly and maintaining the right amount of grip, Marcus battled against tricky conditions to hold on to his position. But with chance move around the outside from Lawson, the pair went wheel-to-wheel through the final corner, but struggling with grip Marcus relented to third place. His time came when he managed to sweep past Auer in the closing stages to claim second place at the line.
Sealing his weekend with a trio of podiums was a positive start to the young Kiwi’s championship campaign. But ever the racer, the Ferrari Driver Academy protégé is eager to capitalise on his strong pace and claim victory next time out at Teretonga Park in Invercargill.
“It wasn’t the start to the season I wanted, of course I want to win. I just missed out on pole, which was a shame. The tyre pressures weren’t quite right, so I had to fight a bit harder in the final race. But we can have great pace so we’ll pack up, move on and I’m confident I can claim victory next weekend.”
With 78 points, Marcus Armstrong is 2nd in the Championship a mere 4 points off the lead as the field heads to Invercargill this weekend.