Grove considering Supercars wildcard with Payne

Grove Racing could field Matthew Payne in its spare Supercar for a wildcard start. Picture: Ross Gibb

Grove Racing says it is considering putting its protégé Matthew Payne on the Repco Supercars Championship grid this year in a wildcard entry.

This year, the young New Zealander is contesting his first full season in the Dunlop Super2 Series as part of the Grove Junior Team in a Nissan Altima.

Payne is set to make his first Bathurst 1000 start later this year partnering either David Reynolds or Lee Holdsworth, although he could yet make his championship debut before then if a wildcard effort comes to fruition.

Grove Racing does have a spare Ford Mustang in its possession after building a new Gen2 chassis in the second half of last year.

In any case, Payne’s racing programme this year won’t be limited just to the Supercars feeders series or even the main game.

This week, the 19-year-old will contest the first of what is expected to be a handful of GT3 endurance races.

That will see him race in the 12 Hours of Mugello with Earl Bamber in a Porsche 911 GT3 R as part of the Hankook 24H Series.

Speaking with Speedcafe.com, Grove Racing owner Stephen Grove said the team is evaluating its options with regards to a possible wildcard.

“We’ve got three completely ready to go [Super]cars. That’s just something we’re going to view and watch his progress,” he said.

“We’re pretty happy that he’s going to head overseas. He’s going to do a bit of racing. When you do those 12-hour and 24-hour races, it’s really good.

“The passing of the slower cars, the amateurs, the GT4 cars, the long runs, the ability to try and qualify, we noticed that in Dubai, with 93 cars on the grid, you’ve got to be patient.

“We’re thinking that a bit of overseas stuff will hold him in good stead.

“There’ll be a balance between Super2, overseas, he’s definitely doing the Bathurst 1000 as a co-driver, and then if the opportunity arises, to put him in a wildcard.”

Although not ready to fully confirm Payne for a solo sprint round just yet, plans are potentially in the works to field Payne in the world’s biggest GT3-based endurance race.

Grove said he and his son Brenton will contest the famed Spa 24 Hours, and Payne could join them.

“We’re sending a car over to do the Spa 24 Hour, so whether there’s an opportunity there, we don’t know yet; we’re still working through that, or an opportunity in another car,” said Grove.

“That’s the premier GT3 race in the world, Spa. It’s tough, it’s wet conditions, it’s night driving, it’s slow cars. The standard of drivers is off the charts.

“To get him into that environment is something that we want to work towards.”

Payne’s next Super2 Series outing will come at the Bunnings Trade Perth SuperNight on April 30-May 1.

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