Cauchi backs 'superstar' Payne after AGP misses

26 Mar
Two podiums, a maiden pole, and two clashes led to a mixed weekend for Matt Payne
  • Matt Payne scored two podiums and a pole at AGP

  • Penrite Racing driver wiped out disputing lead in final two races

  • Payne now seventh in points heading to home race

Penrite Racing Team Principal David Cauchi was impressed by rising star Matt Payne’s ability to rebound following his dramatic crash in Melbourne.

The Grand Prix weekend was a breakout round for the 21-year-old, who finished third in the first two races, and scored a maiden Supercars pole.

From there, however, drama followed the Kiwi, who collided with Ford rival Cam Waters disputing the Race 5 lead, before being hit by Chaz Mostert a day later.

Where the Larry Perkins Trophy was initially within reach, Payne instead ended with the weekend with a DNF and a 14th. However, Payne showed maturity beyond his years to collect himself after Sunday's race and accept Mostert's apology.

The young New Zealander's ability to recover from the Saturday crash to lead Sunday’s race, however, wasn’t lost on Cauchi.

"He showed today how well he can do it, after [the Race 5] disappointment,” Cauchi told the Schick Cool Down Lap podcast.

“He bounced back today from the front row, got a good start and was leading the race, until he got taken out again.

“Mate, he is a superstar, he'll continue to get better and better.

“We didn't get the points that we maybe should have or could have, but it's very, very positive. The car speed's there.

“When you've got a fast car and you're up the front, you can fight… the team has just had a fantastic attitude, even last night repairing the car."

MH2 2009

Penrite Racing remains the most recent Ford team to win a Supercars race — Payne’s 2023 Adelaide win — and loomed to repeat the dosage twice in Melbourne.

However, Cauchi couldn’t hide the disappointment of seeing more strong results go begging, with the final two races leaving Payne over 200 points from the series lead.

"With the speed we had, it's really disappointing to not get a few more podiums,” Cauchi said.

"And certainly, there was a race win there to be grabbed. But, we weren't able to get it.

"Taken out, I guess, two days in a row from the lead. It hurts a lot.

“But, the best thing is we've got car speed. We've got two hungry drivers. So, from a team perspective, we're in a very, very good place.”

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