Marcus Armstrong closed the gap to M2 Competition team-mate Liam Lawson in the Toyota Racing Series standings with victory in the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy at Taupo.
Ferrari junior Armstrong made a strong start to take the lead from poleman and Red Bull counterpart Lucas Auer off the line. Auer stayed close in the first half of the race, but was beginning to fall away when the safety car was brought out just after half distance.
The cause of the Kiwi’s 3.4 second lead being shrunk to nothing was a collision between Parker Locke and Petr Ptacek, with both cars being left with damaged suspension and unable to continue. Red flags were waved to clear the incident and the race was restarted with four laps on the clock.
Auer stayed close to Armstrong on the restart but didn?t get a chance to challenge his M2 team-mate before the safety car was brought out again to clear Artem Petrov?s stranded car. The race ended up finishing behind the safety car, with victory for Armstrong providing a high note for what had been a difficult weekend.
Title rival Lawson spent most of the race in fourth, looking at the rear suspension of Esteban Muth?s car. Race three winner Muth put up a stunning defence to hold onto the podium position as Lawson made overtaking attempts on almost every lap. Multiple times Lawson was able to get his nose ahead, only for Muth to keep his foot down and pull ahead once again.
His defence finally came to an end after the red flag, when Lawson was able to pull ahead at turn one on the restart. Muth was unable to challenge and had to settle for fourth as Lawson took the final podium position and minimised the loss to Armstrong. He now lies five apoints ahead, with 90 available in the Manfield season finale next weekend.
Raoul Hyman spent most of the race just behind the battle for third, waiting to take advantage of any mistake, but his patience meant he did no better than fifth, ahead of Kazuto Kotaka and Calan Williams.
Cameron Das and Brendon Leitch were locked in a race long battle for eighth, with the pair swapping positions numerous times. Das held the advantage when the red flag was thrown and was able to stay ahead of Leitch on the restart.
Race results (20 laps)
|1||Marcus Armstrong||M2 Competition||31m51.666s|
|2||Lucas Auer||M2 Competition||+0.805s|
|3||Liam Lawson||M2 Competition||+2.524s|
|4||Esteban Muth||M2 Competition||+3.322s|
|5||Raoul Hyman||Giles Motorsport||+3.639s|
|6||Kazuto Kotaka||MTEC Motorsport||+4.052s|
|7||Calan Williams||MTEC Motorsport||+5.376s|
|8||Cameron Das||M2 Competition||+5.578s|
|9||Brendon Leitch||Victory Motor Racing||+5.762s|
|10||Jackson Walls||MTEC Motorsport||+7.032s|
|11||Petru Florescu||MTEC Motorsport||+7.859s|
|12||Dev Gore||Giles Motorsport||+1 lap|
|13||Thomas Smith||Giles Motorsport||+1 lap|
|Ret||Artem Petrov||M2 Competition|
|Ret||Petr Ptacek||Giles Motorsport|
|Ret||Parker Locke||Victory Motor Racing|
|Pole: Auer, 1m23.310s? ? ? Fastest lap: Auer, 1m25.862s