Grove Junior Team recruit and Supercars hopeful Matthew Payne has earned rave reviews from Scott McLaughlin.
Last month, Kiwi teenager Payne was named as the inaugural inductee of the Grove Junior Team.
The announcement came after Andre Heimgartner's Kelly Grove Racing exit was confirmed.
Kelly Grove Racing has yet to confirm its driver line-up for 2022.
Payne completed two days of testing at Winton last week as part of an evaluation with the team.
He completed his first Supercar laps aboard both the Kelly Grove Nissan Altima Super2 car and Gen2 Ford Mustang.
Payne's showing impressed team co-owners Todd Kelly and Stephen Grove.
He has been regarded as one of the best young racers to come out of New Zealand in recent times, and has been compared to three-time Supercars champion McLaughlin.
Payne’s rapid rise through the ranks has featured success in international karting and the Toyota Racing Series.
Payne completed 80 laps at Winton last week
His 2021 season has already featured a New Zealand Grand Prix podium and Porsche Carrera Cup race win in Townsville.
According to McLaughlin, Payne has shown the speed and adaptability required to make waves in the main game.
"He's a Kiwi so that’s probably one thing, but no, seriously, he's a really good racer," McLaughlin said.
"I've seen him race go-karts a number of times, he's in the Porsche series now obviously, and he raced Shane [van Gisbergen] in the TRS this year.
"He has been fast there, so he's obviously showing that he can switch around all different vehicles and be fast in all of them.
Payne won a Porsche race in Townsville
"I guess the last one he wants to be fast in, is a Supercar, and from all reports, it sounds like he's fantastic."
Payne is set to contest the remaining rounds of the 2021 Dunlop Super2 Series, and will also complete his current Carrera Cup campaign.
The Grove Junior Team opened applications to the newly-established junior driver and development program last week.
The program will offer driver and engineering training, sports psychology, plus business mentoring, and financial literacy.
Successful junior team inductees will receive a contribution to their racing budgets, in an effort to fast-track their careers to the Repco Supercars Championship.
The Grove Group has supported both McLaughlin and Anton De Pasquale as personal sponsors over the years, as well as fielding cars in Super2, Carrera Cup and various GT competitions and events.
The Grove Group have sponsored McLaughlin since 2014
"One thing that's awesome about the Grove family is the way that they've been able to come into the series and be a part of it and the fact that they're so passionate," McLaughlin said of the junior programme.
"They're so passionate not only about Supercars, but for motorsport itself, and I guess they're showing that passion by helping young people come through.
"They came on onto the scene with me and supported me when no one really knew who I was and they've been with me ever since, to this day I'm still supported by the Groves.
"It's a really healthy thing to see them in Supercars.
"I think it's great for Supercars, and I think it's great for young talent, and this opportunity and the young driver program they have started has been a long time coming for Australia and New Zealand.
"I think it's a great thing for the sport and for aspiring race drivers Down Under."
McLaughlin also said he was keen to help develop the next generation through his relationship with the Grove family.
"I'd love to, I haven't really spoken to Brenton or Stephen about it just yet," said McLaughlin, who was crowned IndyCar Rookie of the Year last month.
"I really enjoy speaking to young talent and trying to help them, with bits and pieces of advice that I didn't have.
"Some stuff I had help from a lot of people as I came up through the ranks, and was very lucky with the people I drove for.
"Any advice I can give would be a pleasure, so I'd love to try to help in some way."