A star is born – Kaleb Ngatoa will start the 66th NZGP from pole position. Photo / Supplied (Bruce Jenkins)
A sensational New Zealand Grand Prix qualifying session has seen 19-year-old rookie Kaleb Ngatoa (Te Ati Haunui-a-Pāpārangi) master wet conditions to steal pole position for Sunday afternoon's major motor racing event at Hampton Downs, Waikato.
The final moments of the session to determine grid positions for the grand prix were some of the most exciting in the 66-year history of the event as the top spot was traded between much more seasoned drivers than Ngatoa, including two-time winner Daniel Gaunt.
Veteran Greg Murphy looked to have secured a front row starting spot with a superb final effort but in the final moments it was Ngatoa who stole the show, Toyota Gazoo Racing NZ said in a statement.
Young Māori racer Kaleb Ngatoa was interviewed by Te Ao Māori News in December 2020.
The driver who raises all of his own sponsorship and had been flat out off the track for a year raising the money to compete in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series championship this season admitted it was an emotional moment.
“They told me P1 on the radio,” he said. “I have to say I did get a bit emotional. I mean, this is the New Zealand Grand Prix. It’s a very special moment and for everyone who has supported me, but we’ve got a full day of racing ahead and I’ve got to focus on that now.”
66th New Zealand Grand Prix – Grand Prix qualifying
1. Kaleb Ngatoa
2. Daniel Gaunt
3. Matthew Payne
4. Chris van der Drift.
5. Greg Murphy
6. Conrad Clark
7. Tom Alexander
8. André Heimgartner
9. Damon Leitch
10. Shane van Gisbergen
11. Billy Frazer
12. Brendon Leitch
13. Peter Vodanovich
14. Joshua Bethune
15. Chris Vlok
16. Ken Smith