Kiwi racer Marcus Armstrong had no warning before his engine lost power at the worst possible time in the New Zealand Grand Prix yesterday.
The 17-year-old Ferrari Academy driver had been in control of the Toyota Racing Series all season but as he took off from a safety car intervention on the last lap of the championship his car went into safety mode and he watched his title slip away.
Following behind race leader Richard Verschoor and the safety car, Armstrong's water temperature climbed and the car went into safety mode to protect the engine. The first the Kiwi knew of the problem was as he accelerated.
"It is quite simple – it just doesn't rev any higher," Armstrong told The Herald. "I got to a certain speed and then it won't go any faster.
"If you see the replay it is obvious because I got swamped.
"At the time I was obviously pretty angry but after some time to reflect I have realized I did my maximum and my team did a faultless job.
"I walked away from the track knowing I'd done everything I could possibly do.
"It's just very bad luck."
Dutchman Verschoor won the Grand Prix while Russian Robert Shwartzman took advantage of Armstrong's terrible misfortune to win the championship.
It looked for the most part that Armstrong would not only win the championship but the famous Grand Prix as well.
"Everything was going to plan for the first few laps," Armstrong said having made a great start from second on the grid to lead the field into the first corner and for the first 31 laps of the race. "It was just the last five laps that went a bit pear shaped.
"To be honest I would have been quite OK with the championship and second in the race.
"Richard [Verschoor] did a good job to over-take me with five laps to go. He had nothing to lose and I had everything to lose and he knew that. He took quite a big risk and it paid off.
"Fair play to him."
Taylor Cockerton's car stopped with a handful of laps to go and the safety car was called. But the decision was made to turn the race back green with one lap to go and Cockerton's car still stricken.
"Obviously the safety car came out and they decided they would go for a one-lap sprint, which was stupid because there was a parked car on the side of the road," Armstrong said.
"The race should never have been re-started. They just wanted to finish the race not under safety car, which in terms of safety, was ridiculous.
"Even then we would have sealed the championship if the car hadn't gone limp."
While it will hurt not having his name on the list of champions Armstrong dominated the five-week championship and can take plenty out of the experience.
"Every time I go on the track I learn something new," he said. "Over the past five weeks it has been tremendous to work with the great people at M2.
"Obviously I have two great teammates that pushed me and I pushed them – it has been a great toe-to-toe battle."
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