PREVIEW: The Toyota Racing Series heads to the New Zealand Grand Prix to find a championship winner
The 2019 Castrol Toyota Racing Series will draw to a close this weekend at Circuit Chris Amon, with the championship to be decided between contenders Liam Lawson and Marcus Armstrong.
It’s a battle that has been hard-fought all season, with the championship lead changing with almost every race, as Lawson and Armstrong have stood out from the pack.
Toyota Racing NZ put it best:
One, the experienced, accomplished eighteen year old who's already under Ferrari's driver development wing. The other, a sixteen year old from Pukekohe who was too young to compete in the championship last season.
This weekend’s three races mean that 70 points are available in total, putting four drivers in contention for the title:
Liam Lawson - 278 points
Marcus Armstrong - 273 points
Lucas Auer - 225 points
Raoul Hyman - 222 points
While mathematically possible that Austrian Lucas Auer or Britain’s Raoul Hyman could take out the championship, all eyes will be on the battle between Lawson and Armstrong, currently only separated by 5 points.
Lawson stated his claim early on, taking two decisive wins in the first round at Highlands Park, but Armstrong’s win at Teretonga and two wins at Hampton Downs quickly cemented his spot as a championship contender while Lawson fell to sixth in the championship.
A massive weekend in Taupo with one win and a podium in every race brought Lawson back to the top, while a suspension failure resulting in a DNF cost Armstrong vital points in Races 2 and 3. With both drivers so evenly matched, it’s likely that the reverse-grid race on Sunday morning will be the turning point, as both drivers will have to climb through the pack based on their success on Saturday.
Race 2 at 11.40am local time, or 9.40am AEDT.
Alongside the championship, bragging rights for the New Zealand Grand Prix are also on offer, with the highest profile race of the season to be contested as the Grand Finale on Sunday.
Joining the crop of young drivers will be legendary 77 year-old Kenny Smith, starting his 48th New Zealand Grand Prix on his quest to reach 50.
With so many changes across the world of open-wheeled racing for 2019, and both key drivers eager to start their 2019 campaigns on a high, tensions will be high and the New Zealand Grand Prix is bound to be one to remember.