Young Māori racer raises $105,000 to compete in Toyota Racing Series

By Taroi Black

New kid on the top racing block, 19-year-old Kaleb Ngatoa, has been confirmed as the latest driver for the 2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series.

Born and raised in Marton, Ngatoa will enter a full three-round series beginning with the 66th New Zealand Grand Prix at Hampton Downs over the weekend of January 22-24. To enter he had to raise over $100,000 to compete.

“I have always wanted to do the grand prix and finally having that chance to race is over the moon,” he said.

To race the three rounds in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, the driver’s budget is $105,000.

Ngatoa, who has whakapapa to Te Ati Haunui a Paparang, told Toyota in February 2019 that he wanted to race. But raising the money was the real challenge - putting his name out there, meeting sponsors, businesses and the wider community of Marton.

Ngatoa has testing miles under his belt in the FT60 / Source Toyota Gazoo Racing New Zealand.

He's 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 front runners.

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 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. He was second in the national championship a year later. A season in Toyota 86s was followed by a challenging season in Formula 1600 where he was hampered by mechanical gremlins.

“That’s the goal, that’s the dream and that’s what I keep aiming for.”

Ngatoa, 6, first years in motorsport / Source Kaleb Ngatoa

Ngatoa started driving karts at four years old with the encouragement of his father Robert Ngatoa, who also got him into motorsport.

However, the dream to compete in Formula 1 came from meeting Earl Bamber, a former Porsche Supercup and double Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion.

"I’ve always been passionate about it and my parents have supported me from a young age. My dad said if I wanted it I had to work for it."

He'll be running in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series against some top names and is looking forward to the challenge of racing them and also some of his contemporaries.

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 best Kiwi drivers available in it.

The second round of the championship will be on the shorter Hampton Downs National track before it concludes at Manfeild: Circuit Chris Amon.

He lives and breathes motorsport, making sacrifices. He doesn’t drink and doesn't get to go out with mates much “If I do go out, I always go with a bottle of water in my hand.”