Penrite Racing driver Matt Payne set up for 2024 after rookie win
Payne, 21, ended 2023 on a high with Adelaide victory
Kiwi could become second youngest champion in history
A breakthrough victory at the end of the 2023 season could light the fire for bigger things to come for second-year driver Matt Payne.
Payne, 21, took out the VAILO Adelaide 500 to end his rookie season in crushing fashion, winning by over eight seconds.
It was the third season in succession to produce a rookie winners, with Broc Feeney (2022) and Will Brown (2021) also scoring scored championship race wins in their first full-time seasons.
New Zealander Payne joined a decorated list of drivers to go big in his first ever season, an achievement also matched by the likes of Peter Brock (1973), Craig Lowndes (1996), Greg Murphy (1997), Scott McLaughlin (2013) and Chaz Mostert (2013).
The achievement wasn’t lost on the latest young sensation, with Payne — the 85th driver to win an ATCC/Supercars Championship race — emulating fellow 2002-born driver Feeney by winning at the season-ending Adelaide event.
“It’s obviously a real privilege to join a group of guys like that, and I think it ultimately sets us up really well for 2024,” said Payne, who ended the year with nine straight top 10 qualifying results, including two front rows.
“I think we can hit the ground running and be really competitive.”
A rookie last won the drivers’ title in 1996, with Craig Lowndes crushing the field with a then record 16 wins — as well as both enduros — to put his mark on the championship.
Should Payne or Feeney go all the way and win the 2024 Repco Supercars Championship, they would be the second youngest driver to do so, also after Lowndes, who was aged 21 years, 11 months and 11 days when he won the 1996 crown.
Payne would split Lowndes and Rick Kelly, who was aged 23 years, 10 months and 23 days when he defeated Lowndes in an enthralling and controversial 2006 season.
The Kiwi ended 2023 with a contract extension with Penrite Racing, with team owner Stephen Grove saying the Adelaide result was critical to help Payne carry momentum into 2024.
Grove also suggested that youth could lead the way in 2024, given another 21-year-old in Feeney finished second behind Payne. Brodie Kostecki, 26, won the title, while fellow twenty-somethings Will Brown, Cam Waters and Anton De Pasquale also won races.
“It’s fantastic, it was really important that he got it done,” Grove said.
“We were looking hopefully for a podium this year so he can start 2024 with that behind him.
“We were up in the drivers room and Feeney was there... he did the same thing here last year, and I thought it’s a real changing of guard.
“We have the new generation coming through and hopefully there’s bigger things to come.”
Payne will be joined by countryman Richie Stanaway, who won last October’s Repco Bathurst 1000, at the Penrite Ford team this season.
The new season will commence at the Thrifty Bathurst 500 on February 23-25. Tickets are on sale now.