Mighty Matthew Payne signed off a brilliantly successful 2021 Castrol Toyota Racing Series campaign with another win, and another trophy, at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon this afternoon.
In the process he added his name to an impressive list of former TRS champions. An impressive 25% of the current F1 field are TRS graduates and the FIA F2 and F3 championships are also bristling with racers who’ve competed and won in TRS. Matthew Payne could well be another significant graduate and champion in years to come based on his dominance in 2021.
Payne has won five TRS races since Shane van Gisbergen’s famous New Zealand Grand Prix victory at Hampton Downs and is the most dominant champion in several seasons. His performance is all the more impressive given that prior to the start of the championship, he had only raced in six Formula Ford races to gain the appropriate license to compete in TRS.
Today’s big trophy to add to the collection was the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy, a fabulous piece of history that was given to Denny for his 1974 Argentine Grand Prix victory. It is fair to say The Bear would have been seriously impressed with young Payne’s astonishing performance over the past few weekends, particularly as Payne is a fan of New Zealand’s only F1 world champion.
“This is actually a super special trophy for me,” he said. “I’ve looked up to Denny during my career and I know what he did in the older F1 cars. I’ve always known who he was.
“It’s been such a crazy year, coming back from Europe last year after karting finished, then getting into a car has been difficult. This series has been so good, and I’ve learned a lot.”
Payne won the final feature race at a canter, streaking off into the distance in the opening laps and never looking back.
Billy Frazer was his major challenger on the final day of the championship and inherited the win in the morning race due to a couple of time penalties incurred by Payne for minor infringements. But there were no mistakes from the new champion in the afternoon’s feature race and Frazer had no answer to Payne’s outright pace or his ability to put in a long series of fast laps in the second half of the race to hammer home his race victory. His victory margin of almost 18 seconds was a crushing display.
Frazer had to contend throughout the 27 laps with Peter Vodanovich and Conrad Clark in close attendance and those three were able to gap Kaleb Ngatoa who had to wait a few laps to get past Chris Vlok, who made yet another blinding start from the third row to get his nose into the mix near the front.
An error on the infield by Vodanovich on lap nine put him on the grass and dropped him into the clutches of Conrad Clark, who duly found a way past and into third position. A flying Ngatoa then lined up Vodanovich in his sights and found a way past, only for Peter to take the place back a few corners later.
And that was how it ended but the race – and in indeed the COVID-shortened championship – proved to be all about the emergence of another New Zealand talent. Payne will race under the wing of another great Kiwi racing driver and TRS graduate, Earl Bamber, as he heads across the Tasman next week to compete in the Australian Carrera Cup Championship.
“The endurance racing side of it is where I want to head,” concluded Payne. “Le Mans and Daytona are definitely races I want to compete in and get some good results. For now it’s off to Australia to see what I can do there.”
Castrol Toyota Racing Series – Round 3 Manfeild – Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy
1/ Matthew Payne
2/ Billy Frazer
3/ Conrad Clark
4/ Peter Vodanovich
5/ Kaleb Ngatoa
6/ Chris Vlok
Castrol Toyota Racing Series – Final Championship Points
1/ Matthew Payne 287
2/ Kaleb Ngatoa 229
3/ Billy Frazer 201
4/ Conrad Clark 183
5/ Peter Vodanovich 167
6/ Chris Vlok 149
7/ Shane van Gisbergen 105
8/ Tom Alexander 75
9/ Chris van der Drift 71
10/ Damon Leitch 54
11/ André Heimgartner 51
12/ Brendon Leitch 44
13/ Daniel Gaunt 36
14/ Josh Bethune 23
15/ Greg Murphy 22
16/Ken Smith 12