Payne opens up on rollercoaster start to 2024

06 Jun
"We've had some pretty promising results slide away... fifth is not where I want to be"
  • Matt Payne reflects on start to 2024 season

  • Payne has two poles, two podiums after 10 starts

  • Kiwi rising star confident for Darwin after recent test

Matt Payne admits fifth in the championship is "not where I want to be" as the Penrite Racing star plots a fightback in the second half of the season.

Payne's second season in Supercars has already reaped poles and podiums, but race-winning opportunities have also been lost, leaving the New Zealander fifth overall.

Only Will Brown (3.9), Chaz Mostert (4.0), Broc Feeney (4.9) and Cam Waters (6.8) have a better qualifying average than Payne's 7.2. However, the aforementioned drivers have all been able to convert to victory this season.

Payne has had his chances and led three races, notably crashing out with Waters in Melbourne, before fading from pole on home soil in New Zealand.

Despite the near-misses, Payne has kept touch with the championship leaders, before an off weekend for the team in Perth cost both Penrite Racing drivers crucial ground.

Race Radio 2024: Waters and Payne collide at AGP

“It's pretty good to be in the top five in the championship at the moment, but I would have definitely liked more in the season so far,” Payne told Supercars.com.

“We've had some pretty promising results slide away, unfortunately, and it's hurt us in the points and the teams' championship as well.

“The mindset is always just to go out and win races, but at the same time, you can't be putting a silly move on someone where it's sort of 80-20.

“You've always got to be adjusting to where you're sitting in the championship, but fifth is not where I want to be. I want to be up around that sort of top three area, challenging those front guys.”

After a circumspect start to the season in Bathurst, Payne enjoyed an average grid spot of 3.6 across the six races in Melbourne and Taupō. However, the Penrite Fords struggled to come alive in Perth, with Payne only 16th in Sunday qualifying.

payne pole taupo 2024

A recent test day, though, has Payne confident moving forward, starting with next weekend's Darwin round.

“We were sort of looking like we were almost there, but we sort of dropped off the radar a little bit in Perth, which was unfortunate,” said Payne, who is enjoying being mentored by Supercars legend Garth Tander.

“It was disappointing to have an off weekend, I guess you could say, as we were sort of building good momentum.

“It did feel like Turn 6 for us was tough — the micro sectors don't lie. That was probably our weakest point on the circuit. We always analyse everything. Whether it was turn, whether it was drive — we just really struggled there.

"But the engineers have done a really good job of trying to deduct what it could have been. We tried a few things at the test day last week that could fix that sort of thing. That day went really well.”

ONBOARD: Payne powers to pole in Taupō Shootout

When asked if Penrite Racing will be back at the front in Darwin, Payne replied: “We definitely can.

"The guys have been doing a lot of analysing and, and especially after the test day, I think they found a few things.

“So, we're going to put our best foot forward and try and put Perth behind us as quickly as we can. But there's still really good learnings coming from a weekend like that, where you're sort of struggling.

“Darwin is always a hard round. It's really hot. But last year, I actually really enjoyed driving the track. It's really cool. I only went to Darwin for the first time last year and I loved it.

“If we can have a really good shot at Darwin, I think it would be a nice springboard to sort of push ourselves into the second half of the year.”

Payne is 391 points behind leader Brown 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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