22 November 2023 | General


Kiwi Kaleb Ngatoa is currently on a plane from New Zealand to take over the seat in the Team 88 S5000 car that was to be driven at the VAILO Adelaide 500 by Spanish international Roberto Mehri.

Having most recently undertaken a guest appearance with GRM at the season-opening round in Tasmania, Mehri had been signed to drive the distinctive white Team 88 S5000 car most recently piloted by Aaron Love.

However, stopping over in Bali en route to Adelaide, the Spaniard has come down with a serious case of ‘Bali-belly’ and advised the team yesterday afternoon, from hospital in Bali, that he would be unable to continue on to Australia.

By 7pm last evening, the opportunity to slip into the seat was offered to and accepted by Ngatoa, who is on his way from Auckland to Adelaide today.

A regular on the scene last year, twice S5000 race-winner Ngatoa has been keeping his hand in by contesting NZ’s Formula Open Series, dominating the Formula Atlantic/Pacific category at the second round of the series, at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon just three weeks ago.

During the event, Ngatoa broke the long-standing Formula Pacific lap record that had stood for over three decades, set during the Formula Atlantic heyday by Craig Baird.

The VAILO Adelaide 500 clashes with the third round of the NZ series, taking place this weekend, at Taupo International Motorsport Park, with Ngatoa electing to withdraw from the NZ event to re-acquaint himself with Australia’s V8-powered single-seater series.

“Roberto has been pretty unlucky,” said Team 88 owner Albert Callegher today, “ and it’s such a shame that he is unable to be here. However, it’s great that Kaleb – who has won in the category before – was available and able to hot-foot it to Adelaide by tonight.

“He of course ran with Team BRM throughout most of the 2022 season, so it shouldn’t take him long to get comfortable – though this will be his first visit to Adelaide.

“We all wish Roberto well for a speedy recovery and hope we can see him here during 2024.”