Richard Verschoor wins New Zealand Grand Prix

2 years ago in News

A final lap frenzy cost Kiwi Marcus Armstrong two pieces of silverware at the New Zealand Grand Prix on Sunday.

The 35-lap race at Manfeild was looking in the bag for the Cantabrian early on, but things quickly changed.

Dutchman Richard Verschoor ended up lifting the Grand Prix trophy, while Russian Robert Shwartzman claimed the 15-race  Toyota Racing Series title. Armstrong was left fuming and threw his steering wheel after a final-lap restart when his car appeared to be stuck in safe-mode following a safety car cost him any chance of both titles.

Starting from P2, Shwartzman took the lead on the first corner and was well ahead of the pack. Only Dutchman Verschoor, sitting third on the series ladder, was able to keep in touch with him. The duo opened a large lead over the rest of the field and from there it looked like there were only two men in the race. Verschoor made a strong move to take the lead, but second was still good enough for Armstrong to claim the TRS title.

The overtaking move was investigated, but officials deemed it legal.

“I think it was good, I think it was amazing,” Verschoor said. “I got one chance, I went for it and I don’t regret anything.”

But with five laps to run, Kiwi Taylor Cockerton ran out of gas and opted to park up in the gravel at turn one despite there being plenty of other safe options.

That saw the safety car come out for four laps, meaning drivers had one final lap under racing conditions.

The long safety car period ultimately hurt Armstrong.

“On the restart, I was watching my mirrors and as soon as I went on the throttle I saw it was on safe mode. I think that is what happened to Marcus,” Verschoor said.

But it turned out well for Shwartzman.

“That was incredible. Before the last lap I was disappointed because I saw that Richard and Marcus had the points so there was not much I could do. But some how [Armstrong] slowed down after the safety car and I just overtook them… and suddenly I am the champion. It is incredible. I changed in one second.”

Shwartzman, like Armstrong, is part if the Ferrari academy team.

Invercargill’s Brendon Leitch, who was the star of the morning’s race, finished fourth in the Grand Prix behind Frenchman Charles Milesi.

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