Two New Zealand drivers from the Australian Supercars series are in Malaysia this weekend to race in the 12 Hours of Sepang. Asian Motorsport caught up with Matt Payne and Ryan Wood ahead of the race.

By Steven Walton

Supercars drivers Matt Payne and Ryan Wood are driving in this weekend’s 12 Hours of Sepang, which starts at 10 am local time (2 am GMT) on Saturday, March 16.

This is the first time they have driven at the Sepang International Circuit.

Payne will drive a Mercedes AMG GT3 for Grove Racing, the same team he competes with in Supercars. His teammates this weekend are Stephen Grove and Brenton Grove.

Wood, who drives for Walkinshaw Andretti United in Supercars, is in a Porsche 911 GT3 R (991.2) for EBM Giga Racing, a team which finished on the overall podium in last year’s 12 Hours of Sepang. His teammates are Adrian D’Silva and Tanart Sathienthirakul.

Payne: ‘We have a good shot at winning’

Payne told Asian Motorsport he had grown up driving the Sepang International Circuit in video games and on a simulator. “So it’s really cool to drive it for the first time in real life,” he said.

“It’s a really cool track, I really enjoy driving it, it’s very flowing so it probably suits my style quite well,” he said.

Payne said the Grove Racing Mercedes was running well so far. “We had a few issues in Dubai when we raced it [in the Dubai 24 Hours] a couple of months ago, so it’s good to come here and do a few practice runs without any issues so far.”

Payne is no stranger to endurance racing. He competed in a Ferrari in the European Le Mans Series in 2022 and in the same year he also raced in the 24 Hours of Spa in a Porsche.

He said he has always wanted to drive the Mercedes. “It’s always been really fast every time I’ve been racing the Porsche, so it’s a real pleasure to get to finally drive it now.”

“I think we have a good shot at winning, if we have a competitive car and we get the balance right, I think we’ll have a pretty good shot.”

Payne said the 12 Hours of Sepang meant a lot to him.

“I did a lot of flying back and forth to Europe and it’s a long way,” he said. “[Malaysia is] not actually so far for us to come from Australia, so it’s quite convenient and it’s super hot so it’s good training for me for Supercars.”

Payne said more Supercars drivers should take the opportunity to do endurance racing.

“It is very competitive and it’s quite a lot different to what we’re used to at home and the weekends are a little bit less pressurised … so you can focus on having fun.”

Grove Racing owner and co-driver Stephen Grove said it was great to have Payne in the car this weekend.

“For me I’m a big fan of being in the car as much as you can … and that was well seen with [three-time Supercars champion] Shane van Gisbergen, another Kiwi, how he would always adapt, it helps you to adapt,” Grove said.

“It’s good for his driving, it’s good for his stamina, and it’s just good for all of us to get over here and have some fun.”

Wood: 12 Hours of Sepang a ‘new challenge’

Wood told Asian Motorsport the 12 Hours of Sepang would be a “new challenge” for him.

“I haven’t done too much GT stuff, so should be exciting,” he said. “I’ve done like three-hour stuff and a couple of one-hour [races], but nothing super long like this.”

Wood said he hoped to be up to speed at the track after just one run. He was due to get his first laps around Sepang during testing on Thursday.

The goal for the race was to get on the podium, he said.

“Adrian [D’Silva] and Tanart [Sathienthirakul] are both capable of that around here, it’s just kind of up to me I guess, see how fast I am.”

Wood said the 12 Hours of Sepang should help him prepare for the Supercars endurance races and “just being able to get into a groove”.

“To be honest, I didn’t do a whole lot of laps in round one [of Supercars], we got taken out in both races,” he said.

“So to actually get some racing laps under our belt should be helpful this weekend.”

Header image credit: Steven Walton/Asian Motorsport

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