New Zealand has another World Karting Championship contender in Marcus Armstrong, the 14-year-old Christchurch ace who won the KF class at the final round of the CIK-FIA European Championships in Sweden last Sunday.
Thirteen years ago Aucklander Wade Cunningham won the World Karting Championship title at Sarno (near Naples) in Italy and next month – courtesy of his form in Europe this year Armstrong, who turned 15 this week, will line up as one of the favourites to win the 2015 KF class title at the 2015 KF and KF-Junior title meeting at the La Conca track in the far south of the country.
Though the kart world continues to run single round World Championship meetings like the upcoming one at La Conca over the September 26-27 weekend, Italy’s four-round WSK Series at the beginning of the year, and the three-round CIK-FIA European Championship between May and July provide a multi-round build-up recognised by all the top teams and drivers.
Armstrong, who drives for the works Tony Kart team, proved quick straight away this year, finishing a close second to teammate Niklas Nielsen in only his third meeting (the Winter Cup at Lonato del Garda) in February then finished second in the Pre-Final and fourth in the Final at the final round of the WSK Master Series at Sarno in April.
The win on Sunday was his first at European Championship level though and bodes well for the World Championship meeting.
“This result validates everything I’ve been working toward this year,” Armstrong said this week. “It’s been a very intense learning curve being based in Europe since February, I’ve raced extensively in the States and Asia but the racing here is easily the most fiercely contested in the world, familiarising myself with that early in my career stands me in good stead for future opportunities.”
The breakthrough win didn’t come exactly easily either, Armstrong thrown from his kart in a heavy crash in one of his heats on Saturday when contact from another kart sent the young Kiwi into a tyre wall.
Despite that Armstrong bounced back to drive from 19th to sixth in the Pre-Final then from sixth to first in the Final on Sunday.
Not the smoothest running of weekends, but one, Armstrong says, he will never forget.
“In practice and qualifying we didn’t show the speed we had, as there was always something which wasn’t quite right and obviously after the crash on Saturday we had to start Sunday further down than we wanted.
“(That said) the Pre-Final was one of my most enjoyable races, coming from 19th to 6th in wet conditions on slicks. Then the Final went perfectly for us. We were extremely quick in the opening few laps which is where I took the lead. To be honest, I thought the tyres would go off towards the end but they maintained well and we took the win.
” Tony Kart had everything perfect for me last weekend and I can’t thank them enough. It’s just a shame Nicklas (Nielsen, Armstrong’s Tony Kart teammate) couldn’t share the podium with me after he retired early.”
Other drivers expected to do well at the upcoming World Championship meeting include Armstrong’s Tony Kart teammate Nielsen from Sweden, Ben Hanley from Great Britain, Richard Vorschoor from The Netherlands and Juan Correa from the United States.