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The rookie class of 2023: Meet the debutants

08 Mar 2023
Fraser, Payne and Hill were rivals in 2022
3 mins by James Pavey
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The Repco Supercars Champoionship rookie class of 2023 is a decorated group of three — and they all have history together.

Declan Fraser, Matt Payne and Cameron Hill will all make their full-time Supercars debuts this year.

Payne has replaced the retired Lee Holdsworth at Penrite Racing, with Hill replacing the Blanchard-bound Todd Hazelwood.

Hill’s signing with Matt Stone Racing seemed the last piece of the 2023 puzzle before Fraser’s 11th-hour deal.

Fraser, the 2022 Super2 champion, replaces Jake Kostecki in the #56 TRADIE Ford.

It’s the biggest rookie cohort since 2020, when Bryce Fullwood, Jack Smith, Kostecki and Zane Goddard made their solo debuts.

Five drivers debuted in 2018 — Jack Le Brocq, Anton De Pasquale, James Golding, Todd Hazelwood and Richie Stanaway — and all will feature in 2023.

Broc Feeney and Thomas Randle formed the rookie class of 2022, and the former won in Adelaide en route to sixth overall.

Randle showed glimpses of speed, but largely raced without luck.

How will they fare?

Fraser, Payne and Hill all showed their mettle in last year’s Super2 season, finishing first, third and fifth.

Each driver deserves their place on the grid, with Fraser the seventh former Super2 champion in the 25-car field.

Kiwi karting wunderkind Payne was on the money from his 2021 cameos, and backed it up with poles and wins last year.

Hill was also a mathematical chance to win the 2022 title, given his consistency.

Fraser is 22, Payne 20 and Hill 25. Each driver also made their Bathurst debuts last year, and kept out of trouble.

Hill relishing 'amazing' MSR opportunity

Mike Kable Young Gun Award winner Payne has already been likened to Scott McLaughlin, while Hill has proven immediately competitive in everything he’s driven.

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Then, there’s Fraser, who has a title victory and Bathurst start with Craig Lowndes, no less, under his belt.

Performance is a guarantee with these drivers — their results will come down to their teams, and how they fit in with their engineers.

The advantages

Given the entire field will be competing in brand new Gen3 machinery, the rookies will be joining everyone on a clean slate.

Conversely, Feeney debuted with Shane van Gisbergen at his peak in a highly-developed Gen2 Commodore.

While Feeney was impressive, van Gisbergen had experience in the car on his side and was more established.

It’s a different story in 2023, given the new cars — although the best drivers will be those who adapt to the new cars quickest.

2021 Carrera Cup champion Hill will have the added bonus of a title-winning engineer in the guise of the experienced Paul Forgie.

Payne and Fraser will have experienced teammates such as Cam Waters, James Courtney and David Reynolds.

Grove details why Payne is in for 2023

Additionally, Fraser will have four cars’ worth of data to pour over, with Waters, Courtney and Randle his teammates.

"I think this year is the perfect time to jump into the main game with Gen3 coming along, it levels the playing field for everyone," Fraser said.

"We’re a four-car team, and Tickford has a lot of experience in developing cars, of course Thomas and I will have our rookie test days as well.

“So we’ll have a fair bit of track time and hopefully we can put all that together and have a really strong year.”

There is plenty of promise in each driver — but it’s anyone’s guess which one will end 2023 best of the rookies.

The 2023 Repco Supercars Championship will commence in Newcastle on March 10-12.

Tickets are on sale on Supercars.com and Ticketek.com.

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