Friday, Sep 14 02:46pm
AUTHOR: Toyota Racing New Zealand

Kaleb Ngatoa targeting title challenge as career momentum builds

Multiple karting champion and championship runner-up in Formula First Kaleb Ngatoa is the latest young gun to sign up for the 2018–'19 Toyota 86 Championship.


The Rangitikei College 17-year-old has put together a formidable team for an attack on the championship in his first season.


Ngatoa's car will be run by Ken Smith Motorsport, led by Smith himself who has mentored most of the high quality racers to emerge from New Zealand in recent years.


Smith will be on hand at every weekend he can be, along with Toyota 86 champion Tom Alexander.


Ngatoa and his father Robbie Ngatoa have run all of the young racer's campaigns to date, but believe the new combination involving Kenny will prove to be a formidable outfit.


And Smith isn't the only big gun in Kaleb's camp this season, he's also got the advice of Supercars icon and four-time Bathurst 1000 winner Greg Murphy to call on when he needs it.


"I met both Ken and Greg at a national karting weekend when I had been leading throughout and had problems in the final race," Ngatoa said.


"I came into the pits and sat quietly with my crash helmet still on taking it all in. Ken later came up to me and said I'd driven very well and had taken defeat very maturely. Greg saw me race that weekend too and was very complimentary.


"Since then both have always been available to help me with questions and direction. They've been great. This is the next step in that relationship."


Ngatoa was hugely successful in karting, winning National, Schools and North Island titles in Junior Restricted and Junior Rotax before moving into Formula First. He won the Winter Series at his first attempt and finished seventh in his first New Zealand Championship and second last year in one of the most intense battles in the category for many seasons.


It's all amounted to a considerable pool of expertise for the Marton racer to call on in his first year in the Toyota 86 Championship.


He's already tested the Toyota, which will be backed amongst others by long-time supporters JJ Waters, Capture Signs and Robbie's Mechanical Services. Ngatoa raced it in the ENEOS North Island Endurance Series one-hour race at Pukekohe, which he won in what was his first time out in the car.


He's got sports car experience too with one of MIKE Racing's GT4 Aston Martin under his belt as well.


Like many of the drivers preparing ahead of what will be one of the most competitive New Zealand championships next season, and certainly the most competitive in the history of the Toyota 86 category, Ngatoa is aiming to up his game even more.


Time in the Elite Motorsport Academy has been utilised wisely and he is hard at work training to improve his conditioning for the six big race weekends that form the championship.


"We're in it to win it and I have always believed that's the attitude you have to have in motorsport if you are looking to build a career in it, regardless of the route you decide to take," Ngatoa said.


"You have to want to win and it’s all about the complete package. We know the circuits and we have a team who knows the car.


"I will drive to the best of my abilities and if we are consistent and near the front in every race and every round, then I am hopeful race wins will come and we can be in the fight for the championship."


Ngatoa's championship will begin at the Supercars Championship event at Pukekohe Park in November before the series joins the Speed Works Motorsport NZ Championship for round two on Pukekohe's original 'short course' configuration.


The championship then heads south for weekends at Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell and Teretonga Park, Invercargill before heading to the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, Feilding in February.


It concludes at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, North Waikato in March with a non-championship endurance racing weekend in Taupo a month later.


2018–'19 Toyota 86 Championship calendar: 


Date   Venue
2–4 November 2018   Pukekohe Park, Auckland (Long Circuit)
7–9 December 2018   Pukekohe Park, Auckland (Short Circuit
11–13 January 2019   Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell
18–20 January 2019   Teretonga Park, Invercargill
8–10 February 2019   Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, Feilding
9–10 March 2019   Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, Waikato