In a dramatic season finale of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, Australian Formula 4 graduate Liam Lawson has edged out Ferrari Academy driver Marcus Armstrong to claim the series title and New Zealand Grand Prix crown.
With only one-point separating Lawson and Armstrong before the Grand Prix at Manfeild, the race had everything from safety cars, a red flag, and only eight cars surviving the 35 lap race.
Lawson was the quickest car in the opening stages of the race before the red flag appeared on lap seven to retrieve the stricken Czech racer Petr Ptacek. The restart was strong for Lawson who carried on in the lead of the Grand Prix before the safety car once more appeared after a six-car pile-up.
The third restart of the afternoon saw Lawson relinquish the lead after being forced wide onto the grass by rival Armstrong, with stewards taking a dim view on the pass and docking the Ferrari Junior with a five-second penalty.
Though the drama didn’t stop there, with the safety car reappearing on lap 16. Australian Formula 4’s own Jackson Walls was fortunate to walk away unscathed after a high speed clash where Dev Gore catapulted over the top of Walls’ car.
Walls and Gore’s incident reduced the final classification cars at the chequered flag to eight, with ironically Lawson’s mentor Kenny Smith rounding out the final finishing position in eighth.
“It was a weird race and I reckon I fluked the start as I have been having a few issues with those throughout the season, but it all came together and I had already made the move I needed to secure the championship when I heard about Marcus’s penalty on the radio,” Lawson said.
“I was racing with the championship in mind so to end up winning the Grand Prix is very special. I was a bit emotional on the warm down lap. People were on the radio and I was getting some lovely messages. It’s very special.”
With Lawson ultimately securing enough points to win the title by finishing ahead of Armstrong, the two compatriots immediately met in the garages at the race conclusion. Lawson consoled Armstrong after the epic five-week battle the two shared over the New Zealand summer series.
“I have enjoyed racing with Marcus and although there’s a rivalry on track, we’ve become friends during the series,” Lawson said.
“I can understand how disappointed he was after the race. It’s been a great championship, however, and he’s been a huge part of that.”
Lawson is the second Australian Formula 4 graduate to win the Toyota Racing Series, with current Super2 racer Thomas Randle becoming the first Australia to claim the crown in 2017.