Toyota Racing Series rookie Matthew Payne expects this year’s tough competition to be an ideal training ground before making the switch to the Australian Porsche Carrera Cup Championship.
A New Zealand karting champion, Payne became the first driver announced for the full three-round Toyota Racing Series in December.
However, just one day earlier, Payne had also confirmed he would be competing in this year’s Australia’s Carrera Cup Series in an Earl Bamber Motorsport-backed car.
Racing in two contrasting categories in the same year is a strong ask from the 18-year-old.
But he says the primary target this year remains his Porsche ambitions, meaning his stint in TRS will act as something of a warmup.
“We saw it as great build up for this year’s Carrera Cup championship,” Payne told Velocity News.
“The TRS championship is known for having great racing and while being stuck at home for the whole of this year, we decided to take advantage of an opportunity like this and use it.”
Still, Payne remains composed and focused on his first goal: starting his TRS campaign in a competitive fashion.
“I think for every racing driver it is only natural that winning is everyone’s goal,” Payne said. “Sometimes you have to look at the circumstances and think is it realistic.
“I’m definitely looking to be at the front fighting with everyone else. If we don’t have the pace then we work together, find the weaknesses and push on.”
Like most of the field, Payne’s time in the current-spec FT60 car has been limited to just a handful of testing days.
“It has been quite challenging trying to learn as much as I can in such a short time.
“Coming from karts, it has been a completely new feeling for me when you push the car to its limits on the track. So, it has taken a bit of getting used too. But I think now it feels more natural and easier to find the limit.
“It has been great. A lot of weight training has now come into the programme with these cars being so heavy in their steering.
“Also, we have been out in the kart very frequently now just to keep the race fitness up and being able to do long runs without too much effort.”
Payne’s debut weekend will have added weight given it coincides with the 66th running of the New Zealand Grand Prix.
Boasting a driver roster of Greg Murphy, Ken Smith and Shane van Gisbergen, Payne says a Grand Prix win would be a fantastic reward for all his hard work over the offseason.
“[A GP win] would be an amazing achievement for myself and everyone that has helped me get to this point in my career.
“It’s been a challenge over these last six months, but things are coming together, and that makes me more determined than ever to go out there and put it all on the line.
“For me, it comes down to preparation and how well you’ve prepared yourself for the weekend.
“There are some very long races on the schedule that are going to be tough both physically and om the mental side. These are the things that make the difference in those last few laps.”
Images: Tayler Burke/Matthew Payne Racing