Cauchi ‘very proud’ of Payne’s start to rookie season

Matt Payne

Matt Payne. Picture: Ross Gibb Photography

Penrite Racing Team Principal David Cauchi has hailed Matt Payne for his start to his rookie campaign in the Repco Supercars Championship.

The 20-year-old sits 12th in the standings after the Thrifty Newcastle 500, where he achieved race results of 12th and 14th, despite a bout of vomiting, in his first event as a full-time driver.

Payne is therefore comfortably clear of the other two rookies in the field at this early stage, with Cameron Hill 22nd on the table and Declan Fraser 24th, although it is worth noting that the latter did bag a 13th in Race 1 before his start line tangle consigned him to a DNF in Race 2.

Cauchi was glowing in his praise of the young New Zealander, who was being eyed off for an elevation into the big time for 2022 before it was decided that a full season of Super2 was the preferred option.

“I don’t think I could have asked for more from him,” he told

“He really needed to keep it straight, keep it clean, and he didn’t put a foot wrong.

“The car came back straight, he raced well, [in his] first time really racing on the soft tyre like that, at a street circuit… I’m very impressed.

“I’m quite sure that he was the best rookie out of all three of them so I’m very proud of him, and we’ll definitely be able to build from there.”

Payne will get more miles in his Grove Racing Ford Mustang today when the three rookies undertake a test day at The Bend Motorsport Park.

One man who enjoyed two extra laps in Newcastle was his team-mate, David Reynolds, given he made both Top 10 Shootouts in the first event of the Gen3 era.

The 2017 Bathurst 1000 winner went on to score pole position for Race 2, from which he drove to third place at the chequered flag and is now fourth in the drivers’ championship, while Grove is second only to Erebus Motorsport in the teams’ standings.

“Both the team and the drivers did a pretty great job all weekend,” said Cauchi.

We still have lots of things we need to work through to keep improving even further, but overall, Matt Payne in his rookie debut, I thought, didn’t put a foot wrong – really impressed with what he did this weekend – and Dave, the same.

“To get a pole and a podium in this championship is no easy task, so I’m really proud of what everyone’s done.

“All the work that all the boys and girls have put in over the past few months has been immense, so a credit to them and a credit to everyone, all the teams really, to be able to produce some racing like that.”

After Payne’s test, the Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint awaits at Albert Park on March 30-April 2.

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