By Mark Baker Photos Ferrari Driver Academy
Thrust into two intensely competitive European championships at just 16 years of age, young Kiwi ace Marcus Armstrong is showing world class speed and form.
The Christchurch-born driver, son of motor industry identity Rick Armstrong, has scored two outright wins and six podium finishes to lead the FIA Formula 4 Italy Championship at its mid-point. While in the the ADAC German F4 Championship which he is also contesting this year the tally is two wins and four podiums and he is third on points.
Widely regarded as New Zealand’s next ‘great hope’, Armstrong won his first national karting title in 2011 at the age of 10.
He continued karting at the highest level until late last year when he made the switch to ‘wings and slicks’. Karting taught him the importance of practice and qualifying.
“Practice is essential to get the car set up right for the circuit and see where everyone else is at; and in a grid of 28 or 30 other racers qualifying is critical. It’s not an automatic free pass to a race win but it’s so much harder to get to the podium from further back, as the reverse grid races show,” he said.
In his first Toyota Racing Series season he scored two outright wins, most notably the Denny Hulme Memorial Cup at Taupo. Here, he perfected his high-risk, high gain signature overtake, a bold and aggressive thrust around the outside of a rival, grappling with the reduced grip and taking the other driver by surprise.
“Sometimes it’s the only way if the guy in front is holding you up,” he said.
Mentoring programmes help young drivers make fast and safe transitions up through the sport. Three years ago Armstrong joined seven other young racers on the Elite Motorsport Academy mentoring programme which focuses on producing ‘all-round’ graduates with sessions on fitness, nutrition, media skills, mental conditioning and much more. Then at an age when others are fretting about their NCEA results, he was the first New Zealand driver to be invited to join the elite Ferrari Driver Academy.
“These programmes give me perspective on my racing and the importance of doing everything well,” he said.