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Groves’ lofty target for Stanaway, Payne

GROVE Racing and enigmatic recruit Richie Stanaway are arguably the great unknowns of the new Supercars season, but they’re not settling for mediocrity.

Armed with top-of-the-line infrastructure and personnel, and having finished 2023 on a high, the Groves have set their sights on the ultimate prize that is the championship.

“Richie is bringing a new edge to the team, he is super motivated to be back in a full-time seat and paired up with Matt (Payne), that is going to be a really fun combination,” team principal David Cauchi told V8 Sleuth.

“They’re both going to push the team to new heights.

“We don’t see any elements that we don’t have, as to why we can’t achieve (a championship this year).

Richie Stanaway at Winton. Pic: Ross Gibb

“I’m not saying it’s going to be easy – this championship, the level is so high, it’s unbelievably competitive.

“And now with the second year of the Gen3 car, I think it is actually going to get more competitive as teams start to converge on the performance window, the peak of these cars.

“It’s going to be ultra-competitive but I don’t see why we can’t be up there mixing it for race wins and vying for the championship come November.”

A former international open-wheel and GT3 star, Stanaway has experienced the highs of winning the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000, as well as the lows that saw him bow out of the sport at the end of 2019.

Second-year young gun Payne meanwhile has drawn comparisons to Broc Feeney, giving Cauchi confidence that he too can contend for the title.

“Matt won the last race of the season, just like Broc did the previous year,” said Cauchi.

Matt Payne (right) in Adelaide. Pic: Supplied

“Broc is a perfect example, he showed last year that he can be right up there and was in contention for the championship but a few things didn’t go his way. Matt’s in exactly the same position, so why not?”

With a higher degree of trust in the parity between the Gen3 Mustang and Camaro, and neither Shane van Gisbergen nor Brodie Kostecki on the grid, the window of opportunity is wide open.

“It’s going to need someone to step up to the plate because it’s all there for the taking,” said Cauchi.

“It’s unfortunate that the two previous champions are not racing this year, but it is what it is and now this year there will be a new champion. We just don’t know who it is yet.”

The Thrifty Bathurst 500 starts tomorrow and will culminate in a pair of 250km races across the weekend.

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