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The miracle behind Payne’s Albert Park podium

OPENING lap contact with Anton De Pasquale left Matt Payne surprised he even finished Friday’s Supercars race at Albert Park, let alone score his second consecutive podium.

The two Mustangs clashed wheel-to-wheel while disputing fifth place at Turn 4 on the opening lap.

It broke the steering on De Pasquale’s Dick Johnson Racing entry, leaving the hapless #11 Ford driver to limp back to the pits and into retirement.

Payne charged on and finished a fine third, only to discover post-race that his car had too sustained damage.

“I had two spokes missing out of my right-front wheel, I don’t even know how it held together,” said Payne when asked by V8 Sleuth about the contact.

“I was on the outside at (Turn) 3 and wasn’t really willing to give up my spot. He was sort of crowding me out, so I sort of said ‘nah, I’m going to pitch it in here’.

“It was kind of weird because we locked wheels and then the steering just completely came out of my hands.

“That’s why we ended up running so wide. It was a bit of a hard hit; I didn’t feel any damage after it but I was lucky to make it home on that wheel I think.”

The contact did cost Payne a couple of positions, but he had the speed to make his way back to fourth as the race’s time-certain cut-off loomed.

He then benefitted from a penultimate lap mistake from Broc Feeney – which appeared a carbon copy of his own blunder from Thursday – to inherit the podium.

Identifying his opening lap craft as a weakness, Payne described the Albert Park sprint racing as a fun challenge.

Opening lap action at Albert Park. Pic: Supplied

“It’s difficult here because you have to just pick the right time to try and make a move on the car in front,” he said.

“Because everyone is conserving tyres a little bit at the start, you could feel like you’ve got a really good race car but everyone else is just driving slower than you.

“It’s hard to work out whether or not you need to conserve. But it’s fun racing. There’s battles everywhere, there’s switchbacks, people firing up the inside.

“I think the track’s so wide, you just have so many people looking for opportunity. It does make for really fun racing. It’s bad if you’re on the wrong end of it.

“It’s racing that we’ve never done for a long time without any pitstops, you have to manage it on the track and things change so much in a couple of laps with people pushing on or backing off.

“It’s difficult but you’ve just got to bide your time and make the right moves and get some clean air for the front tyres especially.”

Payne continues to hold down fourth in the championship after four races, behind only Will Brown, Feeney and Chaz Mostert.

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