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The young gun who masterminded stunning win

AS two long-standing driver/engineer partnerships come to an end, another is in the making.

Matt Payne is the 21-year-old star rookie who upstaged the Repco Supercars Championship field with a dominant victory in the season-ending Adelaide race last month.

Calling the shots behind the scenes was 24-year-old engineer Jack Bell.

Payne and Bell worked together during the 2022 Super2 Series and graduated simultaneously into the main game this year.

They’ll stick together next season, where more success appears almost a formality.

Bell grew up a racing enthusiast and always dreamed of being in Supercars – but behind the wheel.

“I have been racing karts for 15 or 16 years,” he told V8 Sleuth.

“I grew up wanting to be a race car driver.

“Every young kid who is racing karts always wants to do that, but then I really found a big passion of engineering. I went to university and fell in love with it there and I’m absolutely loving what I’m doing.”

Besides dabbling in a bit of S5000 work for 88 Racing as an engineer/mechanic, Grove Racing was essentially Bell’s first proper job out of university.

“Last year it came up to jump onboard with the Groves and they picked me up and gave me lots of opportunities last year and even more opportunities this year,” he beamed.

“I followed Matt through and our relationship and our strengths just keep growing and growing every time we take the car out on track.”

Matt Payne celebrates victory. Pic: Supplied

Bell came in with plenty of wisdom around him; colleagues Alistair McVean, team principal David Cauchi and technical director Grant McPherson are all seriously accomplished race engineers.

“That’s one of the greatest things about this team,” said Bell.

“For me as a young engineer, I’m still learning so much and by having those three around me, I can bounce ideas off: ‘this is what I’m thinking, what do you think?’

“It has been so good to accelerate my learning and development. I 100 percent couldn’t have done it without them.”

At a time when the McVean/David Reynolds and Adam DeBorre/Chaz Mostert relationships are ending, Bell is keen for he and Payne to create a dynasty of their own.

“We both knew that it was going to be a massive step up coming from Super2, so we knew that I needed to lift, he needed to lift, and we have both been growing together,” he said.

“I think that is really exciting for us because we have just been building and building as a package and now it has all come together to show what we can really do, so I’m really excited to keep working with Matt.”

On the other side of the Grove Racing garage, McVean will guide #26 recruit Richie Stanaway in 2024.

Matt Payne and Jack Bell in early 2023. Pic: Supplied
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