Christchurch-born race driver Marcus Armstrong, 16, has achieved all the goals he set himself for his single-seater debut at the daunting Nurburgring in Germany.
Competing in the penultimate round of the 2016 Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Championship on Saturday and Sunday with respected team R-ace GP, Armstrong was quickly on the pace and served notice of his speed in the final practice session. Formula Renault competes on the full Formula One circuit, and it was Armstrong’s first time driving that fast and challenging 5.1 km track format.
Slowed by a puncture in the first qualifying session, he was able to post 14th fastest in the field of 24. The second qualifying session went better, and Armstrong took seventh fastest to line up on the fourth row of the grid on Sunday.
“That puncture in qualifying made race one very difficult! I didn’t take any risks to overtaken drivers because from P14 it was best to take care of the car and the tyres.”
An epic battle with championship regular Henrique Chavez was a highlight of the closing laps, the pair trading places until Armstrong overtaking cleanly on the final lap.
On Sunday, in heavy fog, more experienced competitors were involved in several incidents, with multiple spins causing yellow flag periods and bringing out the safety car. When racing resumed, Armstrong was the talk of pit lane, carving cleanly through the fog-bound field to finish fourth, just missing a podium placing. He was one of only six drivers to crack into the 1:57 lap times, and his fastest lap was a 1:57.715 with an average speed of 157.4 km/h.
“I knew we had the speed to compete for a podium, it was just a case of making the most of track position and overtaking cleanly. I’m really pleased with this first race weekend and I can’t wait to get back on track in Estoril for the Eurocup,” he said.
Marcus Armstrong is currently based in Oxford, England, as he pursues his motor racing career. He has been racing karts in Europe this year with the factory Tonykart team, competing against the best karters in the world in the hotly contested KZ class right up to European and World Championship level. Karting is widely acknowledged as the best foundation for any driver with aspirations of reaching the highest level of motorsport. Now, Armstrong is preparing to move up to full-sized single-seater categories. Contesting the late-season Formula Renault 2.0 rounds is part of that preparation programme for the young driver, who has his sights set on premier racing categories in coming years.