Up-and-coming New Zealand single-seater racer Kaleb Ngatoa will compete in the full three-round 2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series, which begins with the 66th New Zealand Grand Prix at Hampton Downs over this weekend (January 22-24).
The Marton-based racer has tested both the current Toyota FT60 car at Hampton Downs and the earlier FT50 extensively at Hampton and Manfeild, and although he hasn't raced on the full international track at Hampton Downs, he's aiming to be among the frontrunners.
"Honestly, I feel really comfortable in the car and am enjoying the speed and grip compared to what I have driven before," he said.
"Most of all though, it's going to be great to be part of the Grand Prix and the series. To have the chance to race in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series is huge for me and the Grand Prix is so special, isn't it?
"I would love to add my name to the trophy. Every Kiwi driver knows how cool that would be and what an honour it would be to have my name on there with some of my motorsport heroes and mentors."
Before switching to circuit racing, 19-year-old Ngatoa was one of the country's most successful karting talents. He started karting in 2011 and immediately shot to prominence by winning the cadet class of the NZ CIK Trophy.
Two seasons later he was on the top step of the championship podium again, winning the 100cc Junior Restricted Class of the Kartsport NZ North Island Sprint Championship.
In 2016 he won the Giltrap Group Kartsport NZ Sprint Championship in the Junior Rotax class and demonstrated a seamless transition to circuit racing in the same year by winning the Formula First winter series run at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon. Second-placing in the national championship followed a year later.
A season in Toyota 86s was followed by a challenging season in Formula 1600, where he was hampered by mechanical gremlins.
He'll be running in the Castrol Toyota series against top names and is looking forward to the challenge of racing against them and some of his contemporary rivals.
In 2021, because of the global pandemic, the Castrol Toyota Racing Series will run over a shortened three-weekend programme. Starting with the New Zealand Grand Prix is also a departure from the normal championship routine.
The earlier calendar date is designed to attract high-profile New Zealand drivers still at home following the Christmas break and provide a rare opportunity to run the Grand Prix with the very best Kiwi drivers available.
The second round of the championship will be on the shorter Hampton Downs National track before it concludes at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon.
2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series
• Round 1: Hampton Downs - 22nd –24th January 66th New Zealand Grand Prix
• Round 2: Hampton Downs - 29th –30th January
• Round 3: Manfeild - 12th –14th February