Marton teenager Kaleb Ngatoa had a sniff of what he was capable of during practice for round three of the 2018-2019 Toyota 86 Championships in Cromwell over the weekend before everything turned to custard.
The 17-year-old was running five tenths of a second faster than his rivals in the 14 car field during the first scheduled practice session, then things went pear-shaped and a series of mechanical problems in his JJ Wallers/Capture Signs-sponsored Toyota dogged him all weekend.
Father Robbie said the weekend was best forgotten and the team was hopeful help offered by Toyota New Zealand would sort problems out before round four in Invercargill this coming weekend.
"We were travelling slightly faster then everyone else in the first practice, then the diff blew," Robbie Ngatoa said.
"After a lot of mucking round and tinkering it still wasn't going well, so it was replaced. We had to start at the back of the grid in race one because our qualifying hadn't gone well, but then someone crashed into th side of us and took out our ASB breaking. We fixed that and then the car began going into limp mode. The throttle was cutting out. The cars have that cut out system, but when it's continually switching on it's impossible to race."
Kaleb Ngatoa only managed seven of the 10 lap final race on Sunday slipping to eighth on the points table after coming into round three in seventh.
"Thankfully Toyota New Zealand has offered to help find the problem and we can be up and running trouble-free this weekend. We haven't had a very good start to the championship. We had problems in Pukekohe (round two) with porous rims allowing air to leak out of the tyres."
Meanwhile, CareVets Scholarship racer Callum Hedge extended his series lead in the championship at the Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell over the weekend, but missed the opportunity for a clean sweep of three victories when a race two indiscretion proved costly.
It was a bitter sweet weekend for Hedge, who was the fastest man in qualifying at the impressive South Island track throughout the weekend. He headed qualifying and the first race before incurring the wrath of the stewards in the second race for being a little too rough in getting past Jaden Ransley for the race lead.
A five second penalty proved highly significant, not only pushing him down the finishing order to fourth for race two and gifting title rival Ransley the win, but also compromising his starting position for the final race of the weekend.
That win went to Peter Vodanovich - like Hedge not only a contender for overall honours in the series but also a rookie. It was his first race win of the championship and one which he will remember having held off both Hedge and Ransley in an absolute thriller.
Heading to the fourth round at Teretonga Park next weekend, Vodanovich now rounds out a top five in the championship battle that consists of Hedge, with a 54 point buffer over Ransley, with Jordan Baldwin a solid third just two points behind and round 1 winner Connor Adam in fourth, now 90 points behind Hedge after a challenging weekend in the Post Haste car. Ngatoa is 256 points off the pace in the six-round championship.