Grove wants to see Payne ‘in the trenches’

Matthew Payne during Round 1 at Sydney Motorsport Park. Picture: Ross Gibb

While a Dunlop Super2 Series title win would be wonderful, Grove Racing boss Stephen Grove says it’s not the be-all and end-all for Matthew Payne.

This year marks the Grove Junior driver’s first full season in the second-tier Supercars competition, preparing him for his eventual step up to the main game.

The young New Zealander claimed pole position at the season-opening Sydney SuperNight, although he couldn’t convert that and instead finished fourth in a frenetic Race 1.

Come Race 2, he fought through to second from fifth on the grid.

Although the conversion wasn’t there in the first instance, Grove said he’s not concerned and rather was happy to see Payne getting his elbows out.

“Sydney was really good for Matt, and I was really happy,” Grove told Speedcafe.com.

“I didn’t really want him to go out and put it on pole and then take off, I needed him to really be in the trenches and really fighting, which he did.

“Race 1 was fantastic, the amount of changes at the front, trying to get past cars, trying to stop cars from going past him, that’s the experience, that’s what we’re looking for this year.

“We’re really looking for him to mix it up and get as much experience as he possibly can.

“This year, the level of competitors is extremely high. It’s as high as it’s ever been for a long time, in my view.

“For him to be mixing it and dicing and racing door-to-door with the next generation of kids coming through, is only going to be great for his movement into the main game in 2023.”

Indeed, the young Kiwi was in the frame to go full-time in the championship this year with Grove Racing.

However, the inability to acquire a Motorsport Australia Superlicence at the time put the brakes on those plans.

Still, Payne is expected to make a cameo in Supercars in 2022.

At a minimum, the 19-year-old will race in the Bathurst 1000 as one of the team’s co-drivers, ideally along with Matt Campbell.

As for line-ups, it hasn’t been confirmed who would pair up with the respective primary drivers; David Reynolds and Lee Holdsworth.

Even a wildcard entry has been entertained by the team as they look to get Payne in as many scenarios as possible before making his main game graduation.

“We certainly would like him to win the series, but that is certainly not our number one priority,” Grove explained.

“Our number one priority is to get Matty into as many conditions; starting on pole, wet starts, dicing at the front, all the things that come that he’ll need next year. That’s all we really want.

“It’s really just a training ground to give him as much exposure to the hard-fought racing that it is.

“If you look at the main game, the level of racing, door-to-door, is exceptional – probably the best in the world. He needs to prepare for that, so he needs to make sure he gets in there and works hard.

“I look back to Broc [Feeney] and what he did at Sydney, I thought he did an outstanding job there and I thought that he really stood up where he really needed to stand up and held his ground, that’s what we’re looking for Matty to learn this year for next year.”

Round 2 of the Super2 Series will take place at Wanneroo Raceway on April 29 to May 1 as part of the Bunnings Trade Perth SuperNight.

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