Saturday, Jan 13 03:59pm
AUTHOR: Matthew Hansen

Marcus Armstrong scores podium, as Richard Verschoor wins TRS opener

Dutch driver Richard Verschoor has comfortably won the opening race of the 2018 Castrol Toyota Racing Series, leading home pole sitter and debutant Robert Shwartzman and Kiwi Marcus Armstrong. 


After claiming the lead off the start, Verschoor looked untouchable for the balance of the race despite a determined Shwartzman hanging in behind the former Red Bull driver for a number of laps.


Among the star performers was Pukekohe local Taylor Cockerton. After a late call-up, he clawed his way from 10th on the grid to sixth. 


On his return to the series, Verschoor was the star of lap one of the season; taking first place from Robert Shwartzman. Soon the margin between the two leaders was at a second. The start and opening lap were largely clean, save for a poor getaway from Brendon Leitch.


Clement Novalak, Armstrong, and James Pull represented second through to fifth, with the former two drivers engaged in a big battle for the last podium place. 


By lap five, Verschoor and Shwartzman had begun trading fastest laps in the low 1min 18sec bracket. Armstrong had overtaken Novalak for third (via a pass at turn one), but had three seconds of margin to bridge. 


Armstrong appeared to be comfortable mirroring race leader Verschoor's lap times, but Shwartzman on the other hand looked like he was starting to fade. By lap eight the gap first to second was approaching two seconds. 


But despite the ebbing and flowing, the order would remain unchanged at the pointy end as the closing laps resolved themselves. Shwartzman closed in, but not by enough — losing out to Verschoor by 1.2 seconds. 


Armstrong, Novalak, and James Pull completed the top five, with an impressive Cockerton in sixth having driven from 10th on the grid. Reid Harker completed his debut in the series to finish in eighth, with Ryan Yardley finishing 11th. 


After his lap one losses, Leitch continued to struggle with issues in his ITM Toyota. He finished the race in 13th. 


Results (top 10) 


1. Richard Verschoor   15 laps     
2. Robert Shwartzman  +1.215  
3. Marcus Armstrong  +2.119  
4. Clement Novalak  +7.525  
5. James Pull  +12.990  
6. Taylor Cockerton  +23.623  
7. Calvin Ming  +26.009  
8. Reid Harker  +26.706  
9. Charles Milesi  +30.095  
10. Juan Manuel Correa   +30.267