As the free practice day for the opening round of the 2019 Castrol Toyota Racing Series ended, Marcus Armstrong set his mark on the timesheets, fastest of all categories at the circuit with a blistering lap of 1:28.926.
With most of the TRS field – rookie or otherwise – experiencing the car and the circuit for the first time, Armstrong says his advantage going into the racing part of the weekend is his ability to adapt almost instantly to a new race environment.
“Our approach with this one has simply been to get here and drive the circuit. One of my strengths from karting in Europe has been an ability to learn circuits quickly,” he said.
The Christchurch-born driver was third in the 2018 TRS, winning two races and standing on the podium ten times across 15 races. That title, he says, should have been his – and this time he aims to make sure.
Yesterday as the 16-strong grid got to grips with the fast curves, blind brows and straights of Highlands Park seven drivers clawed their way down into the high 1:28second laps in the opening session, with Arnstrong fourth fastest. The top five were covered by less than .5 seconds. In session 2 mid afternoon half the field broke into the 1:29s and Armstrong sent his challenge with a 1:28 lap right at the end of the session.
In the final session at 4:50 pm only five went under 1:30, and none cracked the 1:28 benchmark. Armstrong was happy with second fastest behind Raoul Hyman.
Today the racers are on track for qualifying at 10:45 and then for the first race of the championship this afternoon at 1:55 pm.
The five week, fifteen race TRS championship will deliver Armstrong race-fit, fast and ready for his next challenge: the new FIA Formula 3 Championship which steps up to new, more powerful cars, has a confirmed 30-car grid and follows the Formula One calendar.