A strong debut performance by “world-class” co-driver Kevin Estre has Matt Payne confident heading to Bathurst after they raced to sixth in the Penrite Oil Sandown 500.
Full-time rookie Payne has been paired with factory Porsche star Estre for Sandown and Bathurst, the the pair put on a show to be first Ford home on Sunday.
Estre, who raced in his Porsche Hypercar in Japan just days earlier, ran in the top three in his first Supercars race amid a sea of seasoned co-drivers.
The Frenchman handed over to Payne, who lost ground in the middle stints before coming home to finish sixth, which proved a highlight after the sister car went out early.
Penrite Racing was consigned to one car for the majority of the race after Garth Tander lost a wheel while holding down fourth in David Reynolds’ #26 Ford.
“We had a seriously fast car right from the start,” Payne told the Schick Cool Down Lap podcast.
“I don’t think I can say anything else without mentioning how well Kevin did, he did unbelievably good in his first two stints.
“He did an awesome job managing the tyre, he learnt throughout the first two stints. Credit where it's due, he did a really good job.
“We all know Kevin’s a serious world-class driver, he’s a driver for Porsche. He’s got some serious talent, but he definitely stepped up."
Payne returns to Mount Panorama 12 months after he raced to sixth with the retiring Lee Holdsworth in a chaotic Great Race.
“These cars aren’t easy to drive at the best of times. He did really well managing the tyre,” Payne continued.
"We’ve had a good result at The Bend, now we’ve had a strong result here. It’s good momentum heading to Bathurst.
“My first stint wasn’t great, I don’t know why but I couldn’t turn the tyre on, lost a lot of time to the guys out front, but then the next two stints were heaps better.
“We had some serious pace at the end before the Safety Car came out.”
Penrite Racing co-owner Stephen Grove echoed his young driver: "It was good to be the top Ford team across the race. We thought it was a great effort.
"Kevin did a great job and so did Matt. It was a really good stuff by both drivers… we go to Bathurst with some confidence."