How 19-year-old Payne is handling McLaughlin comparison

07 Oct 2021
'I think if people are making comments, they obviously believe in me'
3 mins by James Pavey
Payne reacts to special McLaughlin praise

It has been a whirlwind 12 months for Grove Junior Team recruit and Supercars hopeful Matthew Payne.

The Kiwi karting ace only made the switch to tin tops in 2021, and its now in line to make some Dunlop Super2 Series starts.

Last year, Payne won the Kartsport NZ National Sprint Championship in the KZ2 class.

Earlier in 2021, he turned heads when he challenged Shane van Gisbergen and Andre Heimgartner in a thrilling New Zealand Grand Prix.

The 19-year-old finished third behind van Gisbergen and Heimgartner, and both Supercars veterans were in awe of the teen’s speed and skill.

McLaughlin commends Grove Junior Programme

In 2021, Payne won the Toyota Racing Series title, having claimed podiums in all nine races, including five wins.

Payne's maiden Porsche Carrera Cup campaign has seen the wunderkind record back-to-back pole positions and a win in Townsville.

Last month, Payne shot to public attention when he was named 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.

The buzz around the youngster grew last week when he completed his first test aboard a Supercar.

Payne’s showing aboard a Kelly Grove Nissan Altima Super2 car and Gen2 Ford Mustang attracted high praise from 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.

Being compared to the greats of the sport may come with its challenges, but the easy-going Payne remains level-headed.


“I don't think it's any extra pressure for me,” Payne told Supercars.com.

“I think if people are making comments, they obviously believe in me, so it kind of gives me more confidence.

Grove looking for 'next McLaughlin'

“I think heading into whatever comes in the future, I'm super grateful for everyone that's sort of been a part of this quick journey.

“It's really only happened over the space of a year really, especially from where I started last year.

“It's really cool to have big names like this speaking about you and obviously it's been a huge dream of mine to be connected with everyone like this, so it's really cool.”

Payne is set to contest the remaining rounds of the 2021 Super2 season, and will also complete his current Carrera Cup campaign.

He left high school two years ago to spend time racing in Europe before relocating to Australia earlier this year.

Despite not being able to travel to New Zealand due to COVID-related border restrictions, he says his friends remain supportive of his flourishing career.

“I think most of them are just really proud to see me doing well overseas,” Payne explained.

“I think I’m going a lot further than what they would have expected, I think most of them didn't really realise how serious it was up until this point.

“I think they sort of thought it was still a hobby and they couldn’t really understand, but it's cool to see those guys.

“Hopefully, depending on what borders are doing, I can go home in summer and catch up with them and enjoy my home country.

“I love New Zealand, it's got the best scenery and I love Auckland and south in Queenstown.

“All of it is awesome, so I love going back every time, I just hang out with friends that were there from the beginning.”

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