Top New Zealand single-seater team M2 Competition has set up a driver management company, and one of its first signings is headed to race in Japan.
Kaleb Ngatoa, the 2017-18 NZ Formula First runner-up and 2021 Toyota Racing Series runner-up, who claimed pole for that year’s New Zealand Grand Prix in the series, will join Sutekina Racing Team for the next Formula Regional Japanese Championship round at Suzuka on May 13/14.
The 21-year-old has spent the last two years racing in S5000, and at the start of 2023 claimed a win and a podium from a two-round run in FRegional Oceania (the new name for TRS). His Japanese racing debut will be overseen by M2 Competition Management.
“I’m really looking forward to heading over to Japan in a few weeks,” said Ngatoa. “Japan has always had a super competitive motorsport scene, especially with single-seaters. They’ve got a really [competitive] FRegional series and an established pathway with Super Formula right at the top acting as a proving ground of Formula 1.”
Fellow NZ FFirst and TRS graduate Liam Lawson, who is a Red Bull junior, is currently embarking on his rookie season in SF. He qualified third for his debut race at Fuji Speedway, which he went on to win, and finished fifth in the second race there. A fourth place at Suzuka last weekend puts him third in the standings a third of the way into the season.
“I’m really excited to be able to follow and build on what Nick [Cassidy] and Liam have done in Japan to ultimately better myself and progress my career,” added Ngatoa.
M2 team owner and engineer Mark Pilcher and former Indycar team owner Steve Horne have set up the new management firm, and Ngatoa is the second talent whose Japanese move they’ve overseen as at the start of this month Liam Sceats drove for Sutekina in the FRJC season opener at Fuji.
The teenaged Sceats came third in NZ Formula Ford and North Island FFord last year, then stepped up to FRegional Oceania with M2. He claimed three podiums en route to fourth in the standings, and finished fourth on his FRJC debut.
“What an experience. Thank you to the team and FRJC for making this all happen and to Mark Pilcher for coming along to Japan with me, overseeing this project,” Sceats said post-event.
“A little bit disappointed that I couldn’t reward the team for their efforts this weekend with a podium. But we understood that the first weekend of racing in Japan was always going to be a great challenge, having to adjust to a new track, new car, new team and a new environment here in Japan.
“This experience was huge for my career development so I will be giving it 101% back at home to get back over here in Japan for round two of the FRJC.”
There was nine cars on the grid at Fuji, four of which were eligible for Masters class honours due to having older drivers at the wheel.