Kaleb Ngatoa has become the first Kiwi to win a 2024 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship race, holding off a fierce race-long challenge from championship leader Roman Bilinski.
All four Kiwis finished in the top ten, with Liam Sceats coming home in fifth, ahead of Alex Crosbie in eighth and Alex Probst in tenth.
Gerrard Xie, who was involved in a frightening high-speed crash on the final lap of Race 2, failed to make the start, which elevated Ngatoa to the front row alongside Bilinski.
Ngatoa got an excellent launch to slot in behind the Pole through turns one and two until a rare lockup from the championship leader opened the door for the Kiwi, who needed no second invitation to make the move for the lead.
Starting from sixth, Sceats lost ground off the line and dropped to eighth behind a fast-starting Crosbie. Probst also got away well and sat within the top ten over the early stages.
Ngatoa slowly extended his lead up front over Bilinski, who had, in turn, built a gap from third-placed Shin. Race 2 winner Lacorte sat fourth, ahead of Woods-Toth and Sceats, who made back quick ground with successive passes on Crosbie and Australian Tommy Smith.
Probst also found a way past Crosbie to take eighth.
Bilinski began to close the gap on the leader on Lap 7, setting a lap record 1:29.223 to reduce the gap to the lead to under one second.
At the end of Lap 8, the gap sat at 0.635 seconds, with Shin falling back and sitting 2.5 seconds off the lead pair, with Lacorte closing in behind. Sceats continued to run sixth, having set an impressive lap of 1:29.256 to close on to the back of Woods-Toth, leaving seventh-placed Smith five seconds in arrears.
Crosbie went on to retake ninth off Probst on Lap 11.
Bilinski improved his lap record of 1:29.067 in pursuit of the leader, with the gap fluctuating lap-by-lap. At the end of the 13th circuit, just 0.427 seconds separated the duo.
Sceats finally found a way past Woods-Toth to take fifth that same lap, but having dropped 4.5 seconds behind Lacorte.
With five laps to run, Lacorte closed onto the back of Shin to challenge for the final podium place, with the duo 4.6 seconds behind the leaders. Sceats had dropped Woods-Toth in his pursuit, putting nearly six seconds on his rival since working through.
The gap between Ngatoa and Bilinski sat at 0.461 seconds, entering the penultimate lap, with the Kiwi running a calm, collected race to manage his lead well.
Just 0.268 seconds separated the lead two entering the final lap, with the championship leader pressuring the Kiwi through the opening corners and showing his nose up the inside at turns one and two. A small lockup for Bilinski offered Ngatoa a slight reprieve and was enough for the Kiwi to claim the win.
The gap at the line was just 0.389 seconds, while Shin held on for his podium, 4.6 seconds behind the winner. Lacorte finished fourth, having lost 2 seconds on the final circuits.
Sceats finished fifth, six seconds ahead of Woods-Toth, while Smith, Crosbie, Titus Sherlock and Probst rounded out the top ten.
Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup Race Results
|Landan Matriano Lim