The Castrol Toyota Racing Series championship rivalry between Marcus Armstrong and Liam Lawson has continued at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, with each driver taking a race win today. However, the advantage sits firmly with Armstrong after a dramatic New Zealand Motor Cup feature race at the end of the day.

Armstrong now sits alongside Kiwis Mitch Evans and Nick Cassidy, and iconic former Formula 1 drivers like Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart as a winner of the historic Motor Cup trophy.

Lawson was set to end the day either ahead or equal with Armstrong on championship points, but the Pukekohe driver instead crashed out of the final race of the day while trying to pass Lucas Auer around the outside of turn one. Scoring no points, Lawson now sits 34 points behind Armstrong, but still 31 points ahead of Raoul Hyman in third.

Liam Lawson [right] sizing up passing Esteban Muth during race three. Photo / Matthew Hansen
Liam Lawson [right] sizing up passing Esteban Muth during race three. Photo / Matthew Hansen

Lawson's win in the opening race wasnt without controversy. A lap-one altercation on lap one with Australian front-row starter Jackson Walls placed a cloud over his result, but eventually officialdom confirmed that the contact wasn't deserving of a penalty.

Advertisement

Following the incident Lawson raced on in second behind Esteban Muth; slowly reeling him in as the race wore on. By the final few laps, he was on him, and on the last lap he got by Muth at turn one to collect his third win of the year. Muth held on to second in a race unaffected by safety cars, with Lucas Auer, Armstrong, and Cameron Das filling out the top five. After starting from the front, Walls crossed the line last.

The fourth and final race for the weekend packed even more drama, with the battle between Lawson and Armstrong taking yet another turn.

The first lap was clean, save for a spin at the back of the field for American driver Dev Gore. Weather had worsened since the morning, with light showers bringing a new depth of dimension to the race.

Armstrong won the start, with Auer and Lawson left to tussle over second place. Soon the top three had grown a gap over Petrov and Leitch in fourth and fifth, however a safety car for the now crashed car of Gore on the exit of turn one would pause proceedings.

Cameron Das leaping over the Hampton Downs kerbs. Photo / Matthew Hansen
Cameron Das leaping over the Hampton Downs kerbs. Photo / Matthew Hansen

The race resumed with 20 laps still to go; immediately kicking off with a bang. Lawson made the best of the restarts, getting a run around the outside of Auer through turn one. But the pair made contact (Auer's front left, Lawson's right rear) sending the local driver briefly into the air and backwards into the sand trap. The former DTM driver appeared to be wider than the racing line when contact was made, but Lawson's move conversely was an aggressive one. The move is currently under investigation.

This produced another safety car, and further switched around the order — Armstrong leading Auer (who appeared undamaged from the incident), Petrov, Leitch, and Das in fifth.

Things resumed with still 17 laps to go, the field this time line-astern. The battle to watch was Das on Leitch. The duo fought hard at the beginning of lap 12; appearing to make minor contact as they ran side-by-side on the run to turn four. By the Carousel, Das had swung by.

Marcus Armstrong. Photo / Matthew Hansen
Marcus Armstrong. Photo / Matthew Hansen

Leitch's next rival from behind was Raoul Hyman and Petr Ptacek, although contact between the two latter drivers gave Leitch a temporary reprieve a few laps later (Hyman on the other hand tumbled to 14th).

Advertisement

At the front Armstrong looked to be in control. By lap 15 the gap to Auer was more than two seconds. Auer had Petrov to deal with, while Das and now Leitch were both in relative isolation.

It looked like the race would set into a rhythm from there, but a mystery mechanical issue forced Auer to slow with six laps to go. The team poured over the Remus-backed FT-50, but the Austrian quickly lost laps. Happy was Petrov, promoted to second while Das, Leitch, and Ptacek were third to fifth.

Celebrations for Marcus Armstrong in pit-lane. Photo / Matthew Hansen
Celebrations for Marcus Armstrong in pit-lane. Photo / Matthew Hansen

Petrov threw down back-to-back fastest laps on lap 21 and 22, narrowing down the gap to 2.5 seconds. The gap continued to come down to eventually just 1.3 seconds, but in the end it wasn't enough for Armstrong to be beaten.

Das, Leitch, and Ptacek retained their grasp on third to fifth, while Muth, Kazuto Kotaka, Calan Williams, Walls, and Petru Florescu filled out the top 10. Leitch's top-five finish helps him hang on to fourth in the standings, but only by two points over Das.

The series now travels to Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo, where another four races are going to be held (one standard 20-lap race, one reverse-grid 20-lap race, and two 25-lap feature races).

Castrol Toyota Racing Series championship standings (unofficial)

1. Marcus Armstrong — 203
2. Liam Lawson — 169
3. Raoul Hyman — 138
4. Brendon Leitch — 125
5. Cameron Das — 123
6. Artem Petrov — 119
7. Lucas Auer — 119
8. Esteban Muth — 116
9. Petr Ptacek — 102
10. Kazuto Kotaka — 95
11. Calan Williams — 93
12. Dev Gore — 65
13. Thomas Smith — 54
14. Jackson Walls — 52
15. Petru Florescu — 52
16. Parer Locke — 51

Castrol Toyota Racing Series race 3 results (official)

1. Liam Lawson
2. Esteban Muth
3. Lucas Auer
4. Marcus Armstrong
5. Cameron Das
6. Kazuto Kotaka
7. Artem Petrov
8. Calan Williams
9. Raoul Hyman
10. Brendon Leitch
11. Petr Ptaceck
12. Thomas Smith
13. Petru Florescu
14. Dev Gore
15. Parker Locke
16. Jackson Walls

Castrol Toyota Racing Series race 4 results (unofficial)

1. Marcus Armstrong
2. Artem Petrov
3. Cameron Das
4. Brendon Leitch
5. Petr Ptacek
6. Esteban Muth
7. Kazuto Kotaka
8. Calan Williams
9. Jackson Walls
10. Petru Florescu
11. Thomas Smith
12. Raoul Hyman
13. Parker Locke
14. Dev Gore
15. Lucas Auer (DNF)
16. Liam Lawson (DNF)