Your very first full-time Supercars race is as hard as it gets — but Supercars’ rookie class of 2023 proved a shining light in Newcastle.
Matt Payne, Declan Fraser and Cameron Hill made their solo debuts at the Thrifty Newcastle 500 earlier this month.
Payne and Fraser finished 12th and 13th in Race 1 in their Ford Mustangs, with Hill 20th in his Chevrolet Camaro.
When compared to their rivals, Payne and Fraser in particular put up some very strong performances.
In fact, only one driver in the 2023 field — Broc Feeney — managed to bring home a top 10 finish in his very first solo race.
Feeney ended his first race with Red Bull Ampol Racing in Sydney last year in ninth position.
A year earlier, Brodie Kostecki made his solo debut in Bathurst, no less — but finished 11th in the first 250km race.
Then, there’s Payne, who was classified 12th in the Newcastle opener, having crossed the line 14th before both Red Bull Ampol Camaros were disqualified.
The New Zealander came home 14th on Sunday despite fighting illness, an effort that impressed Penrite Racing teammate David Reynolds.
“Being a skinny bloke, fast metabolism, it affects me more than a bigger person,” said Reynolds, who finished third in Race 2.
“The heat upsets me a lot. I’ve got to deal with it. “You’ve got to save a thought for Matt Payne — on the warm-up lap, he spewed in his helmet.
“Thank god there was a red flag, he had to go in for a new suit and a new helmet.
"There were chunks of chicken and rice everywhere apparently in his car. Poor fella."
Payne, Fraser and Hill are all testing at The Bend Motorsport Park on Tuesday ahead of next week’s Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint.
Jack Le Brocq — who sits eighth in the championship — has also joined Matt Stone Racing teammate Hill.
Le Brocq is allowed up to 10 laps as a non-rookie or second-year driver.
The 2023 Repco Supercars Championship will resume at the Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint on March 30-April 2.
Every 2023 driver's first full-time race result
*first full-time result, not wildcard result
**made solo debut mid-season
***first full-time result, not stand-in for injured driver
****DNS first race after practice crash