For Marcus Armstrong race weekends don’t get much more up-and-down than this, but nor do they get as memorable. Reflecting on a blast from the past, the Hitech Grand Prix driver looked back on one of his favourite wins all the way back during his karting days.
In the ultimate redemption story, the New Zealander’s weekend was almost ruined by a major crash into the barriers, before managing to turn things around to end it on the highest note possible – the top step of the podium.
“The karting race was in Sweden in the 2015 European Championship KF category. I remember everything about it because it was one of the coolest weekends ever. The gist of it was that I flipped in one of the heats on my own and destroyed the chassis, the engine and everything. In the pre-final, I had to start quite far back because obviously I didn't finish one of the heats and it started raining on slicks and I came through the field to P5.
“For the final, I started P5 and came through to win. It was one of the craziest races of my life - crazy race weekend because it went from a very low point of almost breaking my neck in the chicane, then coming through and winning the final in strange circumstances.
“Also considering I wasn't particularly fast that weekend, I still managed to win the final. That was probably one of the cooler race weekends, and Richard Verschoor was actually on the podium with me in that race, I think he finished second.
“I just hit the chicane wrong, it was a very aggressive chicane and I hit it wrong – I bounced off the first kerb and that sort of spiraled me and put me into the flip, so I barrel-rolled down the track. It was kind of funny, well since I’m okay, it’s kind of funny! It destroyed everything and so we had to use our spare chassis and engine, which was not as good as the other stuff. So, it was a very ironic Sunday when I came through and won.
“It didn't really stress me out that much because when I flipped, I jumped back in the kart and managed to try to make it back to the pits. It was very damaged and at the time I was driving for Tony Kart, and they only had sort of one special engine and chassis per driver. It was like ‘well you sort of ruined all the good stuff, so now we’re going to put in the bog standard and see how you get on’.
“I didn't have much to lose really. The weather could be quite changeable so that created some opportunities, and we took advantage of it. It was a fun race, my teammate Nicholas Nelson was actually leading, and he had an engine failure. It should have been a 1-2 for our team and luckily, I was still able to salvage the win for them.
“I remember Ben Hanley; he’s a karting legend and he basically just gave me the win because he was battling with another guy. Once I passed them both, he decided that he wanted to basically just destroy the other guy's race. In the process of doing that, he gave me a very large lead. I got the lead up to like six laps or something and then just basically cruised to the end, so it was a nice relaxing time.
“It was fun because I saw my mechanic in the mechanics’ stand, and he was quite stressed. He didn't want me to break the engine because my teammate had just broken his, so he was walking up and down stressing, I could actually see him during the race. Then it was great, sort of gave me a great boost of morale I guess heading into the World Championship a month later.
“I think it had an impact on the driver I am now because it was my first big European win. It was a reminder; I had a tough couple of months before that and I hadn’t had many results up until that point. It gave me the reassurance that I was capable of doing it, especially in changeable conditions.
“It taught me to never give up because it’s motorsport and anything can happen – you can start last like I did and end up coming first. That literally never happens in European Championship-level karting. It’s a good philosophy, no matter how bad things get, you can always come back and salvage a result.”