18 July 2021 | General

S5000 Kiwi standout on his rookie season

STANDOUT S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship rookie Kaleb Ngatoa has talked about his pathway to becoming one of the big surprises from the inaugural season of Australia’s top open wheel category.

The 19-year-old from Marton, near Fielding on New Zealand’s North Island, burst onto the scene during Round two of the championship at Phillip Island.

Forced to miss practice due to delays entering Australia following Auckland’s brief Covid-19 lockdown, his first seat time aboard his Team BRM entry came in qualifying in difficult, changeable conditions at Australia’s fastest circuit.

He qualified eighth before finishing the first sprint race in 10th position, failing to finish the second and completing the feature race also in eighth – though at one point he was contending for a podium finish.

It was at Sandown, however, where he shone: charging from eighth to third in race one before using the reverse-grid format to his advantage to win Race 2 – claiming his first win in just his fifth ever S5000 race.

Speaking to New Zealand’s TVNZ One News, he talked about his determination to win the race in the challenging Melbourne conditions.

“I put myself in a zone and drove away to win the race,” he said.

“I was stoked and to hear I was the first Kiwi to do it in S5000 championship made it that little bit sweeter.

“I set that goal but I had so many people tell me it was not unachievable, but a long stretch.”

Ngatoa would go on to win again at Sydney Motorsport Park, ultimately finishing his three (of four) round campaign ninth in the championship with 161 points.

In the wide-ranging interview with 1 News, the rising Kiwi star talked of his motor racing roots and how he found funding to advance his career.

“As a lot of people know, motorsport is expensive. My family couldn’t support it financially so my Dad and Mum said that if I want to go do it, I need to get the money myself,” he explained.

“My biggest sponsors, I’ve just found them on the internet, found their emails: I’ve sent well over 100 emails and probably had 11 replies. Those yes’s are probably what puts me on the grid. I’m grateful for those people.

“If you have a passion for something, whether it’s football, motorsport, or anything if you put your mind to it you can do it.

“My dad is a small motors mechanic and works on chainsaws and lawn mowers, the commitment he puts in throughout my young karting years, and my mum learning about anything because we didn’t have the funds to pay anyone to do it, the time they’ve put into me I couldn’t thank them enough.”

Ngatoa has expressed his desire to return for Season 2 of the S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship and hopes to use the series as a springboard to more international competition.

“I want to be able to race full time overseas, whether it’s F1 or IndyCar, I’ve been passionate about it for 14 years of my life now.

“I’ve got a good support crew behind me, that’s the dream, and I’ll be pushing as hard as I can.”

Click here to view the full video on the TVNZ One News website.