Fast Kiwi set for S5000 debut pending lockdown delays
Rising New Zealand talent Kaleb Ngatoa has signed to contest the final three rounds of the 2021 VHT S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship.
Ngatoa is scheduled to drive the Team BRM S5000 entry raced at Symmons Plains by Tommy Smith, who has left Australia to commence his international career in Europe this year.
Due to make his debut at Phillip Island, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic could however force a delay his debut in the Gold Star competition.
Auckland’s current Covid-19 lockdown could place his Phillip Island debut in some jeopardy – though he is certain to make it for the following weekend’s round at Sandown.
Though he resides in an area outside of the Auckland lockdown region, a recent visit to the city means Ngatoa is included in the Covid red-zone criteria which could force a delay to his travelling to Australia.
Ngatoa, Team BRM and S5000 officials are closely monitoring the situation.
Once his travel issues are resolved, the multiple New Zealand karting champion is likely to be a rapid addition to the already competitive S5000 grid across the final two or three rounds of the championship – with racing at Sandown and Sydney Motorsport Park to follow the Phillip Island event next week.
Hailing from the town of Marton – not far from the Manfield Circuit Chris Amon – Ngatoa recently finished second in the Toyota Racing Series; scoring three podium finishes in the nine-race season.
The highlight, however, was securing a stunning pole position for the New Zealand Grand Prix where he topped a star-studded field in wet conditions at the Hampton Downs circuit.
After leading the race in the opening laps, Ngatoa ultimately finished fourth in his debut attempt at New Zealand’s premier race, won spectacularly by Shane van Gisbergen.
Prior to making the leap to wings and slicks competition, Ngatoa won the 2016 Manfield Formula First (Formula Vee) winter series, raced Formula Ford and the NZ Toyota 86 series and won four major NZ karting titles.
Action from Phillip Island will be broadcast Live + Free on the screens of Seven, Sky Sports New Zealand and streamed via motorsport.tv across the March 12-14 weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to coming over and racing against a group of such well-qualified drivers, in what looks like an awesome car,” Ngatoa said.
“My learning curve is going to be pretty sharp, regardless of which event we’re able to kick off at!.
“Either way, it’s going to be an awesome experience.”
Mark Rundle – Team BRM Team Owner
“We’re excited to have Kaleb join the team for the remainder of the championship,” said Rundle.
“His efforts first time up in the recent TRS series were terrific so, even though he is relatively inexperienced, he should be sharp and on form.
“Phillip Island or Sandown, however it pans out, are both challenging circuits to start his S5000 career but, based on how he has performed in New Zealand, we’re confident he’ll get up to speed quickly.”
Chris Lambden – S5000 Category Development Manager
“It’s terrific news that a young Kiwi is headed our way to join the S5000 series – but somewhat frustrating that NZ’s latest Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland could potentially cost him a debut at next week’s Phillip Island event.
“We’re following it very closely and they’re hopeful that they can make it over in time once restrictions ease. If not, he’ll definitely be in for Sandown the week after.
“Kaleb is very well thought of over there and has the support of long-time NZ motorsport mentor and supporter Peter (‘PJ’) Johnson, who along the way was part of the support mechanism for Scott Dixon and, more recently, Brendon Hartley.
“S5000 is a logical step after TRS for New Zealand drivers, so I’m hoping he’s the first of several – especially when we announce our plans for later this year.”