Christchurch driver Marcus Armstrong, 16, has confirmed he will return from Europe to contest the 2017 Toyota Racing Series.
He has signed to race with Cambridge’s M2 Competition, who are the defending TRS Teams’ and Drivers’ title holders. His announcement today adds a fast Kiwi edge to what is becoming a ‘superteam’ for the coming championship.
With 2016 champion Lando Norris and Jehan Daruvala already confirmed and now super-fast young Kiwi Armstrong joining up, Hamilton-based M2 is building one of the most competitive line-ups yet seen in the championship’s proud 12 year history. The full six-car line-up is expected to include several front-runners from the 2015 and 2016 championships.
Like all rising single-seater racers, Armstrong has a solid background in karting, starting from the age of 7. Competing in New Zealand and the USA he amassed an impressive tally of wins and podium finishes in top categories and championships, then mixed his karting with the intense competition of Toyota’s one-make TR 86 sports coupe championship.
Most recently, he has spent the northern summer competing in KZ and KZ2 classes across Europe with the factory TonyKart team; then in the last two months stepped up into full-on ‘wings and slicks’ category racing with outings in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC and Eurocup and at the final round for the British Formula 3 series.
Though entered as a ‘wild card’ with the intention of simply gaining experience in cars with full ‘aero’ designs and high output four cylinder engines, Armstrong was instantly competitive in fields of 23 or more championship regulars.
Both Lando Norris and Jehan Daruvala were at the front of the Renault championships, with Norris taking both those titles to become a three-time champion this year. From having their mirrors full of the Armstrong car at the Nurburgring and Estoril, they now become team-mates for the coming championship.
Armstrong and father Rick say one thing they have learned from karting, the Toyota 86 championship and the single seater racing undertaken so far is the importance of getting the best support possible off-circuit.
“We have always believed we should race with the best team we could. R-ace GP and Double R have been fantastic in our Renault championship and British F3 drives, giving us cars that are every bit as good as the ones driven by their regular drivers and providing us with excellent engineers and mechanics. Now the process steps up a notch with M2. Marcus is really looking forward to the coming challenge,” Rick said.
Toyota Racing Series was established to hone the skills of the next generation of New Zealand racers. New Zealand’s premier race category, it enables Kiwis to gain experience in modern ‘wings and slicks’ cars in a professional team environment and is the only class in New Zealand motorsport that offers aspiring racers vital experience with wings, slicks and composite technologies.
Marcus Armstrong says adapting between top-level single-seaters and the premier kart category was challenging, but not in the sense many might expect.
“I found it tougher adjusting back to KZ from Formula Renault as karting is very intense on the grippy European tracks. Single-seaters have more mass and of course you are balancing mechanical and aero grip against the engine but they are much more predictable. I’m keen to get into a TRS car as soon as possible.”
Armstrong is now preparing to leave his European base to head back to New Zealand in mid-December. The rest of 2016 will be spent with family and also getting to know the M2 team in preparation for his 2017 TRS campaign.
The five week, fifteen race TRS championship is a natural progression into a northern single-seater season which is the intended next step for the talented youngster. In his first TRS campaign, he is looking to be fast and consistent and to learn as much as possible about the championship and the drivers he will compete against in coming campaigns.
For the TRS championship, Marcus Armstrong is sponsored by Auckland City Toyota and the Armstrong Motor Group.
The harder he works, the faster he gets
Marcus Armstrong is a young man in a hurry. He is working hard to make his way in motor racing.
His career began in karting in 2007 and ramped up sharply to the 2010 Kartsport NZ National Sprint Championship where he finished 14th of 23 in the cadet class. The following year he won the class and was second overall in the 100cc Junior Restricted class at the NZ School Nationals. In 2012 Armstrong was juggling study with motor racing both in New Zealand and the USA, with Armstrong winning the Kiwi 100cc Junior Restricted title.
In an impressive karting career spanning six years, Armstrong had amassed seven major category title wins and many podium finishes here and in the USA.
Stepping straight from the ‘on-rails’ handling and performance of a kart and into premier sports coupe single make competition at age 13, he drove seven races of the inaugural Toyota Finance 86 Championship in 2013-2014. Despite only contesting the second part of the season he finished eighth overall.
Returning the following year, he partnered with his cycling buddy and multiple TRS champion Nick Cassidy and raced the first three rounds, recording two outright wins and finishing seventh, winning the Rookie award.
Armstrong topped his 86 career off with three races in the most recent championship, recording two podium finishes and one fastest lap.
His racing gathered momentum this year, the 16-year-old competing in European and world championship events in the intensely competitive KZ classes. At the same time he began testing in a Formula Renault single-seater, then contested the penultimate round of the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC at the Nurburgring Formula One track. The Formula Renault categories use a similar chassis to the Tatuus used by TRS, making Armstrong’s testing and racing in Europe a valuable preparation for TRS.
The full schedule is:
January 14/15 Lady Wigram Trophy, Ruapuna Park, Christchurch
January 21/22 Spirit of a Nation Cup, Teretonga, Invercargill
January 28/29 New Zealand Motor Cup, Hampton Downs, North Waikato
February 4/5 Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy, Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo
February 11/12 New Zealand Grand Prix, Manfeild, Feilding