A debut Toyota 86 Championship season filled with tough races and car problems finally saw some reward for Marton teenager Kaleb Ngatoa as he picked up his first podium finish on Sunday at NZ Grand Prix weekend in Manfeild.
Ngatoa, with his family operation in the JJ Walters/Capture Signs Toyota, has had a rough run of the series so far after contacts with other drivers, blown diffs, losing anti-lock braking and a fault which kept his car's throttle cut-out system switching on randomly.
However, the young man got to show what he could do on equal terms at the penultimate round at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, where he came fifth in the first race on Saturday, 11th in the second race on Sunday morning (grid decided by second fastest qualifying laps), and then drove outstanding for a third place on Sunday morning, having been in contention for the win until Aucklander Callum Hedge pulled away from townmate and series leader Jaden Ransley.
Ransley, who won the first two races while Hedge finished third and second, still left Manfeild with the series lead, having taken over from another Aucklander in Jordan Baldwin, who spun out in the first race to finish 14th, and then came fifth and seventh in the Sunday races.
But all Ngatoa cared about was finally getting on the podium, as his overall points position of ninth coming into the fifth round would stay the same.
In Race 3, Ransley and Hedge continued to rub panels as they have for much of the season, with Hedge easing clear after the first two turns, followed by Palmerston North's Jacob Cranston, Ngatoa and Auckland's Arran Crighton respectively.
Crighton ended up in a multi-car battle with the traffic coming from behind him, but eventually worked his way clear.
Hedge and Ransley continued their battle, but as the laps ticked over it was clear a motivated Ngatoa was closing in on them, adding his name to the equation for the first time this summer.
Crighton ended up in a crash with Auckland's Sam Wright, after Wright had gone wide on a turn due to making contact with fellow Aucklander Sam Wright.
But the front three were above any chaos as Hedge pulled ahead to take a 1.1 second win over Ransley, with Ngatoa shadowing them to come in a further three car lengths back.
In Race 1 on Saturday, Ngatoa had been trying to get to the front of the chasing pack as the four leaders left the rest behind, competing against Auckland's Peter Vodanovich, who he had a crash with in the opening round, as well as Gilchrist and Cranston.
Ngatoa held them off but couldn't catch the leaders, with Ransley picking up the win and moving to the top of the table after Baldwin's misfortune, while Auckland's Connor Adam and Hedge took the minor placings.
The Marton teenager wasn't really a factor in the second race, which again was won by Ransley, ahead of Hedge and Crighton.
The Toyota 86 series now heads to the grand finale at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park on March 9-10.