Grove reveals details of Red Bull-inspired junior programme

Matthew Payne drives the Grove Junior Team Nissan Altima at Winton

Grove Racing has opened applications for spots in its junior programme, revealing new details of what it says is a Red Bull-inspired talent structure.

The Grove Junior Team will initially encompass three drivers, as young as 12 years of age, with any karter in Australia or New Zealand eligible for selection.

The aim is to create a pathway which connects the most junior levels of the sport to the Repco Supercars Championship, in which the Grove Group is now an entrant through its acquisition of Kelly Racing.

Already, New Zealander Matthew Payne has been picked up by the squad, and is in the frame for a rapid rise to the top tier of Supercars next year, as a replacement for Brad Jones Racing-bound Andre Heimgartner.

In the meantime, he will contest the remaining two rounds of this year’s Dunlop Super2 Series in a Grove Racing Nissan Altima, alongside his existing Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia ride.

Applications for the other two berths in programme open today via the Grove Group’s website and close at the end of the month.

The successful drivers will not only enjoy a contribution to their racing budgets, but also benefits such as driver and engineering training, sports psychology, business mentoring, and financial literacy.

Team owners Stephen and Brenton Grove, plus “other renowned motorsport identities”, will judge the prospective talents and thus decide who will join Payne.

The Grove Group has supported both Scott McLaughlin and Anton De Pasquale as personal sponsors over the years, as well as fielding cars in Super2, Carrera Cup, and various GT competitions/events.

Having decided to take full ownership of what had been known as Kelly Racing, effective 2022, it has already seen fit to expand its involvement in the sport again.

“The Grove Junior Program has been set up to identify young drivers in Australia and New Zealand that have potential to build a racing career, who may not have the resources or expertise to be able to follow that road map,” explained Stephen Grove.

“It’s something that we’ve put in place and we’re really excited about.

“In Australia and New Zealand, we’ve identified an area to give young kids the opportunity to progress. One of the models we’ve used is the global Red Bull Junior programme, which has been able to discover and foster some of the world’s best drivers.

“Grove Racing has a variety of racing programs from Carrera Cup to Supercars, and once we entered Supercars team ownership earlier this year, we identified that it was really important to start bringing young drivers through a development programme. There’s nothing really like it here in Australia and New Zealand.

“We’ve had a pretty close relationship with Scott McLaughlin through a long-term sponsorship and we’ve watched him develop from Super2 into Supercars and now IndyCar where he is making us all proud over in the US. These are the types of drivers we are looking for – next generation of young drivers that can come through and we can all be entertained by in Supercars.

“When we sat down and developed the programme, one of the very important items highlighted by the team was to make sure we had the resources to be able to teach the drivers about all components contributing to becoming a professional.

“These included teaching young drivers about the fitness requirements, media training, the commercial side of the business, liaising with sponsors and making sure they are getting a return on investment.

“This will form the basis of our programme for the young drivers we select for our programme.”

The Grove Junior Team programme

Payne, who this week cut laps in the Altima at Winton ahead of his Super2 debut, hailed the initiative.

“We’ve seen how successful other motorsport academies have been across the world and the Grove Junior Team is aiming to join the elite in this area,” said the 18-year-old.

“I’m so grateful to be the first inductee to this junior programme and I just can’t wait to represent it on the racetrack.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for myself to progress my career as we know these days it’s really hard to keep climbing the motorsport ladder and it’s great to have Stephen helping out other young drivers looking to boost their careers as well.

“It’s really hard for young drivers to make their way into Supercars because there are so many top athletes in the sport already and it’s hard for the next generation to get into it.

“I think the Grove Junior Team program does a good job of giving us the support network we need to boost ourselves to that level. I think the opportunities it provides are unlike anything else.”

A graphic released in conjunction with the announcement of the application process shows a four-level pyramid, with karting feeding into the Super3 Series or Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge, then Super2 or Carrera Cup, and finally the Supercars Championship (See above).

The latter resumes at Sydney Motorsport Park on October 29-31, while Super2 will next be in action at the same venue on November 19-21.

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