Matthew Payne’s start to his first Supercars weekend couldn’t have gone much better.
In fact, it couldn’t have gone any better at all.
The young Kiwi clocked the fastest lap in his first-ever Super2 practice session, steering a Nissan Altima.
Payne was one of only two drivers to lap under the 1.32s in the session.
The other? Super2 championship leader and Jamie Whincup’s replacement to-be Broc Feeney.
The Super2 field this weekend isn’t all rookies and wannabes. Former Supercar drivers Tony D’Alberto and Tim Blanchard are among the runners.
Though the result wasn’t overly surprising for the relaxed Payne.
He was quick in a test session yesterday and felt instantly at home with the car and track.
“It was a really good result especially first time out and it’s going to be a good weekend,” Payne told the Herald about yesterday’s test.
“There’s obviously some pretty good guys in the field who have driven these cars quite a few times, so it was a good gauge for me to see how I compared to them and measured up.
“I haven’t driven this car much as I’ve only done one other day in the Nissan. It’s going to be pretty hard this weekend as those guys race pretty hard. It’ll be good as my first step into Supercars and see where I fit in.”
The car Payne is driving in his debut Super2 weekend also has a bit of interesting history.
Rick Kelly raced the Altima in the Jack Daniels livery between 2013 and 2015. He also gave it a demo run around the Calder Park Thunderdome.
Payne’s afternoon then got a whole lot more exciting when he drove David Reynolds’ Mustang in the Supercars additional drivers practice.
A lightning lap on the soft tyres had Payne rocket to the top of the timing screens with less than five minutes to go.
It was only his 11th lap in the car.
Obviously, tyre life and fuel loads differ massively up-and-down the field, so you can’t look too much into lap times. Still, it is mightily impressive what Payne has achieved in such limited time.
It was only in February when Payne won the Toyota Racing Series with basically no single-seater experience.
He then crossed the Tasman and has claimed two poles and a win in his brief first season in Porsche Carrera Cup.
Payne likely won’t drive a Supercar again for the rest of the season.
Reynolds will have Luke Youlden as a co-driver at Bathurst.
Youlden filled in for the absent Reynolds the past two race weekends, so he’s already got his eye in ahead of the upcoming enduro.
Instead, Youlden was Payne’s data engineer for the session.
Payne has one more Super2 practice session tonight and two races over the weekend.