Marton teenager Kaleb Ngatoa had a much stronger weekend in his return to Pukekohe for the second round of the 2018-2019 Toyota 86 Championship.
Sitting tenth on the points table after the first round in November, Ngatoa had finishes of fifth, fifth and seventh respectively in the three races.
The event used the old short track circuit configuration in Pukekohe after being the support races for the Australian V8 Supercars last month.
Ngatoa's moved up to seventh overall in the season points standings, making up some lost ground from his debut weekend when a contact with Auckland's Peter Vodanovich saw him penalised to a 15th place finish in the opening race, which was followed by 7th and 12th placings in the next two.
On Saturday afternoon, Race 1 was won by Christchurch's Jaden Ransley, where Ngatoa again saw some tight action as he and Aucklanders Jordan Baldwin and Callum Hedge drove three abreast into Turn 1 on the course, with Hedge running out of space and heading into the grass.
Ngatoa would finish around two seconds behind the leading group of Ransley, Auckland's Arran Crighton, Vodanovich and Baldwin respectively.
The Rangitikei College student made it two fifth placings in Race 2 on Sunday morning, finishing behind winner Hedge, Vodanovich, Auckland's Connor Adam and Ransley.
Ngatoa and Vodanovich had started in the second row on the grid, but could not keep up with leaders Hedge and his team mate Crighton, who battled back and forth for the lead until Crighton braked himself at the hairpin on the final lap and went into the grass, falling back to sixth.
Unfortunately, Ngatoa could not keep his Top 5 streak going in the 15-lap final race on Sunday afternoon, finishing seventh in a very tight field as Hedge took his second win ahead of Baldwin and Ransley.
Auckland's Brock Gilchrist got up to fourth, followed by Cambridge youngster Connor Davison, then Adam and Ngatoa.
Hedge, Crighton, Ransley and Vodanovich had been the leading pack and went toe-to-toe in nearly every corner, with Vodanovich ultimately falling back and then Crighton being penalised 15 seconds, which left him in 12th.
Adam, who had been leading the series after Round 1, fell back to second overall behind Hedge, while just a point ahead of Ransley in third.
Racing for the JJ Wallers/Capture Signs team, which is operated by Ken Smith Motorsport, Ngatoa will be feeling much more confident about his abilities at this level heading into the third round at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell on January 12-13.
Points after Round 2
1. Callum Hedge 378; 2. Connor Adam 364; 3. Jaden Ransley 363; 4. Jordan Baldwin 348; 5. Brock Gilchrist 262; 6. Peter Vodanovich 247; 7. Kaleb Ngatoa 232; 8. Arran Crighton 225; 9. Campbell Stewart 184; 10. Jacob Cranston 180; 11=. Sam Wright 177; 11=. Connor Davison 177; 13. Jake Klein 143; 14. Mitch Hughes 141; 15. Justin Allen 134; 16. Andrew Jackson 111; 17. Tony Austin 102; 18. Leo Bult 80.