Dealer’s son wins maiden Toyota 86 race

Dealer’s son wins maiden Toyota 86 race

Christchurch driver 14-year-old Marcus Armstrong has won his first Toyota Finance 86 Championship race.

The son of car dealership mogul Rick Armstrong charged through from sixth on the grid for the final race to lead and win, becoming the youngest driver yet to win a Toyota category race in New Zealand.

Armstrong took the lead after a multi-car incident with four laps to go and held out a hard-charging Ash Blewett to win.

Defending champion Jamie McNee led off pole in this race with one race win already to his name, and had seemed likely to win again. McNee was chased through the opening laps of the race by Matt Gibson, Tom Alexander, Blewett and Callum Quin.

Armstrong had improved to fifth when Cory Holmes crashed out of the race. The field bunched up behind McNee and Gibson made a push for the lead at turn one, making contact with McNee who went off the track.

The ensuing on-track chaos was Armstrong’s opportunity to carve through the racers in front of him. He closed 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 to the front set up a two-car battle for the last four laps of the race.

Armstrong says he had come into the championship aiming for race wins, he hadn’t expected the result to come so soon.

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,” says Armstrong.

Blewett says the dice for the lead over the closing laps was “intense”. The pair were nose to tail for the last two laps.
With McNee driving slowly around to pit, Gibson doing the same and Alexander already in the pits, Quin came through to third behind Armstrong and Blewett.

The intensity of the racing was borne out by the race results, with three different winners across the three races: Gibson started off pole to win the eight-lap race on Saturday; McNee came through from second to win the second race on Sunday morning.

The provisional championship points standings have McNee leading Blewett by just six points 187-181, with Alexander third on 163.

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