How Payne is thriving under 'dad' mentor Tander

04 Jun
"It has been really good to be able to pick up the phone and just ask him questions"
3 mins by James Pavey, Pics by Penrite Racing
  • Matt Payne thriving under mentor Garth Tander

  • Tander signed with team as co-driver, Payne mentor

  • Payne fifth in championship after four rounds

Matt Payne is getting used to seeing Garth Tander's name pop up on his phone – a regular occurrence now with the Supercars legend acting as a mentor for the rising Kiwi star.

Tander was someone the Penrite Racing driver grew up watching, with Payne one day hoping he could follow in Tander’s footsteps as a Supercars champion and Bathurst winner.

Back in 2021, Grove Racing moved quickly to sign Payne to its junior program as it set the New Zealander on the path to Supercars.

When racer-turned-broadcaster Tander was announced at the team in late 2022, he said the opportunity to mentor Payne was “something that grabbed my attention.”

Additionally, Stephen Grove said the 2007 Supercars champion was an “obvious choice” to mentor Payne "given his proven race winning pedigree" and "experience in developing race winning cars and teams.”

Just 38 races into Payne’s full-time career, and the decision has so far delivered, with the young Kiwi now a race winner, regular podium contender and multiple pole-sitter.

payne tander taupo 2024

Come September, and Payne — who is 25 years Tander’s junior — will share a car with the five-time Bathurst winner in what could prove a tough enduro combination to beat.

In a wide-ranging interview with Supercars.com, Payne said he is benefiting from his relationship with Tander, who is also a regular visitor in the Penrite Racing garage on race weekends.

“It's certainly been a little bit different this year because he got announced as my co-driver, so we've definitely been working a lot more closely,” the 21-year-old explained.

“It was really cool with him last year. He does really play the — how would you put it — it's almost kind of like a ‘dad' role on the team, I guess you could say.

“But it has been really good to sort of just be able to pick up the phone and just ask him questions, whenever I sort of think of anything I'm a bit unsure of.

"So, it's really nice in that sort of way. But also obviously to have him as co-driver, he is arguably one of the best, if not the best co-driver in the field. It's gonna be awesome working with him this year.”

tander penrite 2024 test

Payne carried the ‘rookie’ tag around with him in 2023, but by year’s end, he was a Supercars winner on the streets of Adelaide, no less.

He did something Tander didn’t do — win a race in his rookie season. However, in two seasons after his debut, Tander was a Bathurst winner, and championship runner-up.

Payne is on a similar trajectory, and a Bathurst win with Tander would bring the latter full circle. For Payne, being able to call on a 600-plus race veteran has been a “huge help” as he develops into one of Supercars’ best.

“It was obviously good having him last year. I guess you could say he’s been helping me try and take that next step,” Payne explained.

“He's been a huge help. Not only for my first year, but to work closer with him this year. I’m learning to be a lot more consistent fighting at the front, and he’s been a big part of that.”

Payne is fifth in the championship heading to the betr Darwin Triple Crown on June 14-16. Tickets for the event are on sale now. International viewers can follow all the action on Superview.

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