Kiwi Marcus Armstrong has had the Toyota Racing Series cruelly ripped from his grasp in a heart-breaking finish to the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild on Sunday.
The Kiwi led for the majority of the race and was in second place, good enough to win the championship, with a handful of laps remaining when a safety car intervention bunched the field up.
Even at that point it seemed the championship was safely his – the 17-year-old was two places clear of nearest title rival Robert Shwartzman and would have been eyeing a crack at race leader Richard Verschoor in the sprint finish. But the championship that he's been in control of since the opening round, slipped from his fingers when his car momentarily lost power at the re-start.
Toyota Racing Series cars have built-in safety modes that protect them when they start over-heating. It is thought that kicked in as Armstrong found himself in the train of traffic behind the safety car.
As the lights went green he was swamped by the trailing cars and eventually finished seventh.
Dutchman Verschoor won the Grand Prix while Russian Shwartzman secured a podium and took the championship win.
Shwartzman had been very consistent throughout the championship and took advantage of his M2 Motorsport teammate's misfortune to grab the title.
Earlier Armstrong made the perfect start from position two to beat Verschoor to the first corner and take the lead of the race.
The former Red Bull junior got by Armstrong in the latter stages of the race with an aggressive dive down the inside at turn one. Armstrong left the door ajar for him but Verschoor made light contact with the Ferrari Academy driver and forced him off the track. The move is under investigation by stewards.
Kiwi Taylor Cockerton suffered a mechanical failure late in the race, prompting the safety car intervention.