Grove impressed with Payne debut

Matt Payne

Stephen Grove has been left impressed with Matt Payne’s first day of official running in the Repco Supercars Championship and Dunlop Super2 Series.

Payne was fastest in Super2 Practice 1 at Sydney Motorsport Park, then went and also topped the Additional Drivers Practice session in a field otherwise filled with Repco Bathurst 1000 co-drivers.

He finished his evening by going fifth-quickest in the second practice session for the second tier, in which he is making his debut this weekend as part of the Grove Junior Team programme which is designed to feed talent into Kelly Grove Racing.

According to Stephen Grove, KGR co-owner, the 19-year-old demonstrated his all-round skillset.

“He did a great job,” Grove told Speedcafe.com.

“He’s very, very good on the data, giving us information; he’s very good on the set-up; he doesn’t get overwhelmed with anything; he just really gets on with the job; so, we were very impressed.

“We weren’t so much impressed with his speed – which was great – but he’s only a young kid so just his overall knowledge, his overall ability to give feedback, his overall ability to understand what the car needs, and his one-lap pace, to get straight on it, is very, very good.

“We’re very happy.”

Another of Payne’s strengths is said to be an ability to ‘turn on’ his tyres, and he might have been even faster in the second Super2 session had he not missed the phasing somewhat.

“In the co-drivers session, he only went on [good tyres] at the end, but he has a really good strength to really turn them on,” explained Grove, himself a winner of Carrera Cup Australia’s gentleman driver title.

“In the [first] Super2 session, I think he was fastest first lap, and then in that last Super2 session, he just didn’t get enough heat into the tyres, and that’s experience that he’ll learn.

“He was just a little bit off his Sector 2 [and] 3, and then I think he went purple [ie fastest of all at that point] in Sector 1 on the next lap, but then he ran out of tyres.

“He was actually a couple of tenths up and got into traffic, so his Super2 was good as well.”

The young New Zealander had already driven his Super2 ride, a Nissan Altima, and a Ford Mustang which KGR fields in the Supercars Championship, in testing.

Payne’s speed was therefore hardly in doubt, but it was his set-up ability which was something of a surprise.

“We knew from his testing that he’s very intellectual in the race car, if that makes sense,” said Grove.

“Sometimes that’s a really hard skill to get but his speed, we knew that he had.

“But, he’s probably a little bit further on his intellect in relation to setting up a race car than we thought he’d be.

“I mean, he’s done a couple of days in anger and that’s it. [Friday was] his fourth day in either a Super2 or a Supercar.”

Qualifying for this weekend’s first race in Super2 takes place from 14:50 local time/AEDT.

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