Rising star: 14 year old Marcus Armstrong has won his first Toyota Finance 86 Championship race, holding out a hard-charging Ash Blewett to score a result even he did not fully expect.
Armstrong, who is mentored by Andy Neale, had carved his way through from a P6 start position as Jamie McNee, Matt Gibson, Tom Alexander and Callum Quin fought for the lead in front of him.
A safety car deployed when Cory Holmes crashed then bunched the field and put McNee in range of the pursuing group. Matt Gibson made a push for the lead at turn one and made contact with McNee, the latter ending up off the track.
Armstrong was well positioned to close in on the leading bunch and pounced in the confusion following the crash, going through to second behind Blewett and then later in the same lap slipping into the lead. His charge set up a torrid two-car battle for the last four laps of the race.
Armstrong said afterward he had come into the championship aiming for race wins, but hadn’t expected the result to come so soon.
When the tangle happened in front of him, he said, he was thinking of advice Andy Neale had given him: “if you see half a gap, grab it”.
The ensuing laps were tense as Armstrong raced Blewett to the chequered flag.
“That was huge pressure, full credit to Ash for racing clean and he was definitely trying everything he could to get back into the lead,” said Armstrong afterward.
Blewett said the dice for the lead over the closing laps was “intense”. The pair were nose to tail for the last two laps.
With a disappointed McNee driving slowly around to pit, Matt Gibson doing the same and Tom Alexander already in the pits, Callum Quin came through to third behind Armstrong and Blewett.
The Spark/Spotify car had been oversteering through the early laps but settled as the race drew to a close, enabling Quin to take the final spot on the podium.
“The car hadn’t been predictable since we put new tyres on, so the first laps of that race were quite difficult. The rear end was sliding around and I was having trouble maintaining track position, but I hung on and third was a great way to end the weekend” Quin said afterward.
Image: Marcus Armstrong is congratulated by proud father Rick