M2 Competition re-wrote Castrol Toyota Racing Series history at Teretonga Park last weekend by scoring a record-breaking 60th race win as part of an incredible top-five lock-out.
It was Marcus Armstrong, 18, who claimed that record victory in a wet opening race; the Ferrari Driver Academy member coming out on top in a late battle with team-mate and fellow New Zealander Liam Lawson.
“It’s been an awesome team result here,” commented Mark Pilcher. “It’s a huge tribute to everyone that’s been a part of our journey in the Toyota Racing Series that we’ve broken the all-time wins record, despite having not been in the series as long as some of the other teams.
“To do it with a top-five lockout was incredible and Marcus and Liam put on an amazing battle for the win. I’m actually as surprised as I am impressed that at just 16 and 18 years old, they have such respect for not only each other, but the boundaries of the track too, and in such tough conditions.
Liam, 16, had claimed his maiden TRS pole position earlier in the day, but bogged down at the start and dropped to third; handing the advantage to fellow front-row starter Marcus.
Having passed team-mate Artem Petrov for second early on, Liam began to close the gap on Marcus as he aimed for another win to add to the two he scored at Highlands.
A late-race safety car helped close the gap between the pair still further and they ran side-by-side around the daunting ‘Loop’ section within sight of the chequered flag.
After a brilliant display of on-track respect for each other, the team-mates ran nose-to-tail for the remainder of the 20-lap race.
Victory for Marcus was the sixth of his TRS career and move him level on points with Liam at the top of the championship. It was also the third win in four races in 2019 for M2.
“The weekend was pretty alright and it’s obviously great to get my first win of the season and to help M2 break the all-time wins record,” commented Armstrong. “Qualifying was a bit strange because the expected increase in grip never came as the session wore on, so my best time was set in the middle.
“I started the race well and just focused on managing the gap to Liam. The few laps after the safety-car restart were fun and the racing was good and close. It’s too bad we couldn’t do the Sunday races because I’m sure we had very strong pace again, but we now move on to Hampton Downs tied for the points lead and I aim for more of the same.”
Artem, who had sprinted up from eighth on the grid to second at the start, remained in close contention throughout and the Russian finished third to claim his maiden TRS podium on only his second weekend in the series.
Behind him, American Cameron Das made a late move to take fourth and his best TRS finish to date.
Lucas Auer made it an all-M2 top five – the third time the team has achieved this incredible feat – while Belgian Esteban Muth qualified an impressive fifth, dropped to 13th at the start, and hauled himself back up to ninth by the finish.
A repeat result looked likely on Sunday with Lucas on the front row for Race Two on the partially-reversed grid, five M2 cars inside the top six starting spots, and qualifying for the Spirit of a Nation Trophy Race-Three finale to come.
Unfortunately, following overnight rain, and with concerns over predicted 120kph wins, the entire TRS programme for the day was cancelled.
Both races have been rescheduled for the upcoming rounds at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park and Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park (Taupo), turning both events into bumper four-race weekends.
Castrol Toyota Racing Series Drivers’ Championship after Rd 2/5
1 Liam Lawson (NZ) – 113pts
2 Marcus Armstrong (NZ) – 113
3 Raoul Hyman (RSA) – 79
4 Lucas Auer (A) – 73
5 Brendon Leitch (NZ) – 72
6 Cameron Das (USA) – 66
7 Artem Petrov (RU) – 59
8 Esteban Muth (B) – 58