Kaleb Ngotoa claimed both his maiden podium and race win in today’s three S5000 races at Sandown International Raceway.
Round three of the 2021 season and the 19-year-old Kiwi’s second-ever S5000 meeting, Ngatoa survived the treacherous wet conditions in race one to clinch third.
A good strategy call to remain on wet weather tyres while most of the field took on slicks during an unusual red flag period was key to the podium result.
The race initially looked to have started without a usual formation lap, with the field barging towards turn one at full speed. Thomas Randle would bring out a red flag that same lap when he went off at the back straight.
Choosing to stick it out on the treaded rubber, Ngatoa made the most of the early few laps on a wet track to claw his way up to second position.
Unfortunately, Ngatoa’s tyres would quickly begin to deteriorate, and on the final lap he would be overtaken by Nathan Herne. Still, it was the Marton’s driver debut podium in only his fourth career start.
He would then go two spots better in race two, pouncing on a reverse top-eight start to lead every lap and to become the sixth different winner in 2021. He also becomes S5000’s first New Zealand winner in the series’ short history.
It was a commanding drive in less-than-ideal track conditions – wet conditions Ngatoa had yet to experience in S5000 machinery.
Ngatoa spoke to Velocity News on Friday and was asked whether he believed this weekend could see him snag a debut race win. To which he replied: “I’m not going to put any pressure on me to win or anything, I’m just going to have fun and feel good in the car and see where we end up.”
No doubt Ngatoa’s confidence will be sky high for the final round of the championship at Sydney Motorsport Park in May.
Unfortunately, the youngster’s weekend ended on a low note when he crashed into the pit exit wall on his way to starting grid.
Lighting up his rear tyres, the No.15 pitched itself into a half-spin and he careened into the concrete barrier. The incident ruled him out of the feature race, which Joey Mawson would take out.
The 2021 championship will draw to a close at Sydney Motorsport Park on May 1-2. A non-championship event will then be held at Bathurst in November.