Ngatoa claims NZGP pole, Murphy qualifies fifth
Sunday 24th January, 2021 - 8:25am
Castrol Toyota Racing Series debutant Kaleb Ngatoa has come out on top of a wet qualifying to claim pole position for the New Zealand Grand Prix.
Ngatoa came out on top of a damp 15-minute session, setting a 1:44.288s to edge out two-time New Zealand Grand Prix winner Dan Gaunt by a mere 0.065s.
The Marton-born driver set his best lap in the dying moments of the session as the circuit began to dry.
“[My] first time in those conditions in this car, so I just went out, listened to everybody, all the feedback, went out there, put a lap together, and I was happy with it,” said Ngatoa.
“It’s wicked. When he [my engineer] said P1 I said, ‘Sorry, can you repeat that?’ because I couldn’t believe it.
“I’m stoked, but I can’t get too excited. There’s still the race to go.”
A wet circuit greeted the field for the morning’s sole qualifying session to set the grid for the afternoon’s 28-lap feature race.
The first few laps were some 15 seconds off the pace of the best times seen in Saturday’s session.
Initially, it was Chinese Formula 4 Championship title winner Conrad Clark who set the pace with Tom Alexander and Gaunt in tow.
However, as the session hit halfway, Clark spun at Swampy Curves and beached his Toyota FT-60 in the gravel trap. That duly brought out the red flag.
At the time of the stoppage, it was Clark who led Alexander, Gaunt, Chris van der Drift, and Damon Leitch.
Andre Heimgartner sat sixth with Shane van Gisbergen, Greg Murphy, Ngatoa, and Peter Vodanovich in tow.
As the red flag fell, a dry line was beginning to form. Though that soon vanished as another shower rolled across the circuit.
As the session went green the full field rolled out, some on slick tyres and some on wet tyres.
Alexander was an early victim of the conditions, spinning on entry to the Double Bastard.
Despite the inclement weather, the times improved. Ngatoa climbed to second with four minutes to go.
The order quickly began to shuffle, Murphy went to the top on a 1:44.739s, but that was beaten by Gaunt on a 1:44.720.
A 1:44.417s took van der Drift to the top, but it was only brief as Ngatoa clocked his best, a 1:44.288s.
Gaunt also put in a last-lap effort to go second fastest, ending the session just 0.065s in arrears.
That was the way it stayed, Ngatoa topping the times with Gaunt second and van der Drift third.
Matthew Payne was fourth while Murphy fell back to fifth. Clark was sixth, but a three-place grid penalty loomed over his head for bringing out the red flag.
Alexander, Andre Heimgartner, Damon Leitch, and Shane van Gisbergen completed the top 10.
Race 2 takes place at 11:40 local time (09:40 AEDT) while Race 3, the New Zealand Grand Prix, gets underway at 17:20 (15:20 AEDT).
Castrol Toyota Racing Series New Zealand Grand Prix, Qualifying 2:
|3||Chris van der Drift||1:44.417||+0.129||+0.064|
|10||Shane van Gisbergen||1:45.169||+0.881||+0.039|