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V8 Supercars spin out: The saga engulfing Australia's biggest motorsport on the eve of the season

Supercars is unlikely to have the defending champion, Brodie Kostecki, on the grid for the start of the season.

I was wrong. Last December I wrote a piece examining the very difficult season the Australian (V8) Supercars championship went through in 2023, with angst from drivers, teams and, most importantly, the one manufacturer seriously committed to the sport.

I wasn’t wrong about any of those details but I began the story with the following line: ‘Aside from newly crowned champion Brodie Kostecki, there aren’t likely to be too many people that will look back on the 2023 Supercar season with true happiness.’

Recent events have demonstrated that was clearly not the case, with Kostecki actually unhappy with his circumstances. So unhappy, in fact, that as the season-opening round looms at the end of the month, Kostecki is reportedly looking to exit his contract with the Erebus Motorsport team that took him to his maiden title in 2023.

This is unprecedented in the sport’s history and it has highlighted some very serious fissures under the surface of the sport’s facade. These underlying cracks are threatening to tear the sport apart, only exacerbating the issues I already wrote about back in December.

The exact details of the fallout between Kostecki and the Erebus team have not been made clear at the time of publication, although the clear inference from what has been reported is a breakdown in a relationship between the star driver and the team’s management.

The team has already confirmed that Kostecki will not race in the first round of the championship at Bathurst, denying him a serious chance to defend his title if he does find a new ride, while also robbing the fans of the sport’s new benchmark and star driver. 

To be clear from the outset, there are no winners in this conflict - Kostecki is out of a job, Erebus has lost all of its major sponsors (including Coca-Cola) and the sport, as a whole, has a black eye.

Even the specialist motorsport media has come off looking poorly, with the news broken by Speedcafe, only for other publications to come out and criticise the website for supposedly not following a directive from Supercars management to keep the story under wraps. What a ridiculous position. The job of the media is to keep you, the reader, informed and not act as an extension of the public relations department for the sport. 

The team has already confirmed that Kostecki will not race in the first round of the championship at Bathurst. The team has already confirmed that Kostecki will not race in the first round of the championship at Bathurst.

Which speaks to the heart of this issue, which is the increasing disconnect between the sport’s management and the drivers. In recent years there has been a growing disillusionment from the sport’s stars, with recent champions Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin both leaving leading teams to pursue a fresh start in US racing.

McLaughlin, who is now a star in the US Indycar series, didn’t hold back on his thoughts about Supercars’ handling of the Kostecki situation.

“The sport should be ashamed,” McLaughlin posted on X (formerly Twitter). “They know the full story and as per usual side step around everything and don’t say anything hoping the storm will settle like they always have. No protection for drivers ever.”

After days of criticism, Supercars Australia CEO, Shane Howard, attempted to quell some of the drama by releasing an ‘open letter’ to fans asking for everyone to handle the situation with “understanding, empathy and patience” and without trying to publicly condemn any specific member of the process.

It’s a fine line for Howard and his colleagues to walk - on the one hand they need to look after the teams, which are the ones investing millions of dollars to keep the sport going. But, if the drivers don’t feel supported, it could lead to more drivers packing up and finding new rides elsewhere.

There’s a reason Australia has had so few Formula 1 drivers in the past 30 years (aside from the fact it’s super hard), because for most of that time Supercars was an appealing alternative to young, up-and-coming drivers from Australia and New Zealand. There’s a reason Australia has had so few Formula 1 drivers in the past 30 years (aside from the fact it’s super hard), because for most of that time Supercars was an appealing alternative to young, up-and-coming drivers from Australia and New Zealand.

To be blunt, this would never have happened five years ago, when the series was at its strongest, with a solid free-to-air television deal and high-profile sponsors, which allowed teams to pay generous salaries to drivers and therefore attracted the best this country had to offer.

There’s a reason Australia has had so few Formula 1 drivers in the past 30 years (aside from the fact it’s super hard), because for most of that time Supercars was an appealing alternative to young, up-and-coming drivers from Australia and New Zealand. It’s increasingly feeling like that isn’t the case and they are actually using it as a stepping stone to where they’d rather be.

In an ideal world a suitably amicable solution would be found that allows Kostecki to stay on the grid, along with the two Erebus entries and the sport enjoys a more competitive season with a mix of wins from Ford and Chevrolet. 

For the sport’s long-term sake, those in power need to find a way to get the attention refocused on the on-track action, rather than the off-track drama.