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Kostecki vs SVG: Breaking down the 2023 title fight

Supercars
08 Nov
We break down the key narratives to the 2023 title fight
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  • Kostecki and van Gisbergen just 131 points apart

  • VAILO Adelaide 500 to decide 2023 title

  • Erebus leads Triple Eight by 179 points in teams' fight

In 2023, a new era of Supercars began. Two new cars – the Gen3 Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro – brought with them new race winners, and possibly, a new Supercars champion.

Supercars looks fundamentally different in the post Holden vs Ford era. The next generation of Supercars talent, paired with the next generation of Supercars machinery, have made their presence known. This year, we witnessed the rise of Brodie Kostecki.

There is now just one weekend to decide it all. 131 points the difference, two races on the brutal streets of Adelaide. In one corner sits Shane van Gisbergen, hoping to cap off his Supercars legacy with a fourth title. In the other, Kostecki, holding the points lead and hoping to start a legacy of his own.

In the lead-up to the VAILO Adelaide 500, Supercars.com breaks down how we got to a Kostecki vs van Gisbergen showdown for the ages.

RD1: Thrifty Newcastle 500

Season 2023 of the Repco Supercars Championship began on the streets of Newcastle with big controversy which, looking back, completely shifted the narrative of the title fight.

In a spectacular lap that shocked the Supercars paddock, Brodie Kostecki announced his arrival as an early title contender by securing the first pole position of the Gen3 era, with the Erebus star the only driver in the 1:11s.

A Camaro would initially go on to ‘win’ the 2023 season opener, and herein lies the title-affecting controversy. Shane van Gisbergen seized the race lead of Race 1 through the first round of pit stops and went the distance unchallenged.

Van Gisbergen bumps past Mostert for race lead

What was a Red Bull Ampol Racing one-two turned into a Cam Waters’ inherited race win after both Triple Eight cars were disqualified for a technical breach involving the placement of driver cooling systems. The penalty would bring Brodie Kostecki up to third and wipe van Gisbergen’s 150-point win.

A determined SVG would fight back on Sunday, putting a late move on Chaz Mostert to steal the lead. Kostecki would finish sixth, gaining nine positions after a tough Sunday qualifying.

Points after Newcastle

Brodie Kostecki: 2nd, 231 points

Shane van Gisbergen: 11th, 150 points

RND2: Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint

Sprint mode activated. Clawing back from the massive deficit imposed from Newcastle’s disqualification, van Gisbergen wasted little time in his attempt to climb back up the championship order.

Landing the first blow in Melbourne, the Kiwi beat Kostecki after starting third in the Albert Park opener. After suffering a high-speed crash in practice, van Gisbergen took the lead on lap 3, which he held for the remainder of the first sprint. A P2 finish for Kostecki and Erebus double podium, however, set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Kostecki NASCAR Cup debut confirmed Open Graph Image

A dramatic, shortened Race 4 saw Kostecki claim his maiden Supercars victory, while van Gisbergen crossed the line third. The Erebus star went back-to-back in Race 5 and claimed P3 in the Melbourne finale, giving him the round win and the coveted Larry Perkins Trophy. Van Gisbergen finished P2 and P4 respectively. The second round saw Kostecki steal the championship lead from Mostert, and van Gisbergen impressively climb from 11th to third.

Points after Melbourne

Brodie Kostecki: 1st, 514 points

Shane van Gisbergen: 3rd, 428 points

RD3: Bosch Power Tools Perth SuperSprint

Fresh off signing a new deal to extend with Triple Eight, the reigning Supercars champion took on Kostecki an enthralling battle in the Perth opener.

Van Gisbergen started from pole, but a blistering start from Perth-local Kostecki saw him take the early race lead. The two traded blows all throughout the Perth opener, and it was the ding-dong battle following the last pit stop that made headlines around the globe.

Full battle: Kostecki, van Gisbergen dispute Perth win

Ultimately, it was van Gisbergen who won out over Kostecki, the latter slapped with a bad sportsmanship flag before being passed for the race win.

Enter the teammates. Will Brown and Broc Feeney brought not just themselves into the spotlight in the remaining Perth races, but also the teams’ championship.

Erebus brought home a dominant one-two finish in Race 8, their first of the season and third double podium. Feeney flew the flag for Triple Eight on Sunday, holding off both Erebus drivers.

Points after Perth

Brodie Kostecki: 1st, 784 points

Shane van Gisbergen: 3rd, 648 points

RD4: NED Whisky Tasmania SuperSprint

Just when you thought the narrative of the season was set, along comes Brown, with the fourth round of the Repco Supercars Championship seeing the points picture turn on its head.

When Kostecki was wiped out of contention in a scuffle with Waters, teammate Brown was there to pick up the pieces in Race 10. It was Erebus Motorsport’s first win at Symmons Plains, and fourth of the season. In a costly blow for Kostecki, van Gisbergen pinched the final podium position from Waters on the final lap.

Van Gisbergen crashes out of Race 11

Van Gisbergen’s gain was short-lived however, crashing out on lap 1 in Race 11. Feeney would go on to defeat Erebus, aided by an overcut, as van Gisbergen’s car was thrown into a race against time to be repaired for the finale.

Strong qualifying saw Erebus lockout the front row, with Brown benefitting from a fast start to win twice in two days. Kostecki would remain winless for the second-straight weekend, finishing third over van Gisbergen.

Points after Tasmania

Brodie Kostecki: 1st, 986 points

Shane van Gisbergen: 4th, 814 points

RD5: betr Darwin Triple Crown

It was a torrid, trophy-less weekend for Erebus as new teams scored breakthrough wins.

The series’ official Indigenous Round saw race wins from Mark Winterbottom, Jack Le Brocq and Feeney, and somewhat quiet weekends from the title favourites.

Kostecki initially extended his championship lead over van Gisbergen, thanks to a run from 10th to fourth in the Darwin opener.

Things went pear-shaped for Erebus in Race 14, Feeney aiding a Triple Eight one-two, the team's first since Tasmania 2022, while both Kostecki and Brown missed the podium.

Kostecki, van Gisbergen get into it on frantic restart

As Le-Brocq led Matt Stone Racing to a maiden victory in Race 15, Erebus’ weekend went from bad to worse. Kostecki picked up lap 1 damage that saw him classify 26th, and Brown was demoted to sixth, behind van Gisbergen, after a five-second penalty was given for contact with Winterbottom.

Leaving Darwin, Kostecki’s series lead was under threat, with a reduced 59-point margin over teammate Brown, Feeney 91 points down in third, and van Gisbergen 110 points from the lead in fourth.

Points after Darwin

Brodie Kostecki: 1st, 1164 points

Shane van Gisbergen: 4th, 1054 points

RND6: NTI Townsville 500

Townsville set the scene for what would become an incredible title battle. Van Gisbergen arrived on a high, fresh off a shock debut victory in NASCAR, and Kostecki eager to reclaim lost points in his diminishing title lead.

In somewhat of a form slump, Kostecki’s win-less run since Albert Park in Round 2 continued. A P15 start turned into a P19 finish on Saturday, the result of mechanical issues and the championship lead was lost to teammate Brown, who put up a pole-to-victory performance.

Van Gisbergen hands fourth back to Feeney

Come Sunday, Erebus’ fortunes did finally change, with Triple Eight suffering a qualifying shocker and a team orders fiasco that left van Gisbergen seething over team radio.

Whilst van Gisbergen made a dramatic climb from 25th to fifth in his 500th Supercars race start, it was Kostecki who had the last laugh, climbing two spots to gain critical points and a P2 finish.

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Points after Townsville

Brodie Kostecki: 2nd, 1350 points

Shane van Gisbergen: 4th, 1285 points

RND7: Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight

Tension in the camps hit a new height in Sydney. Kostecki returned to the winner’s circle to claim his third race win of his career, and reclaimed the championship lead.

As Kostecki streaked away for a thrilling win under lights in Race 18, Brown and van Gisbergen were embroiled in a heated battle that saw van Gisbergen penalised for a bump-and-run, handing a podium position to Brown and critical points in the teams' championship.

Van Gisbergen and Brown's final-lap clash

Come Sunday the fortunes reversed, and van Gisbergen was a renewed force and dominated from pole, while Kostecki and Brown both suffered problems, the former suffering a clutch issue that took him out of podium contention and down to eighth, and the latter being caught up in a Turn 1, lap 1 tangle with David Reynolds.

Leaving Sydney, just 80 points separated Erebus and Triple Eight in the teams' championship, while the top four drivers were separated by just 67 points.

Points after Sydney

Brodie Kostecki: 1st, 1590 points

Shane van Gisbergen: 3rd, 1536 points

RND8: OTR SuperSprint

Contracts, cameos and Supercars on the world stage: Ahead of the OTR SuperSprint, the Supercars news cycle hit overdrive as the world reacted to van Gisbergen and Kostecki showcasing the best of Supercars talent at the NASCAR Indy weekend. They finished the best of internatonal stars making cameos at Indianapolis before being greeted to some wild contract news back home.

Then, the news broke: Brown was off to Triple Eight in 2024, replacing van Gisbergen. The Kiwi was leaving Triple Eight at season’s end, set for NASCAR. A powerhouse chapter in the teams’ history that spanned eight years and reaped titles, three Bathurst 1000 wins and 68 race wins was set to come to an end. However, there was still plenty at stake in 2023.

In-form Kostecki's championship outlook Open Graph Image

Brown was in a tricky situation, given his own title hopes with Erebus. Come race day at The Bend, all of this was just noise for Kostecki, who went back to business. Kostecki clean swept all three races after taking two poles.

Erebus just took a big step towards the 2023 title, with the #99 driver extending his lead to 137 points, whilst Erebus put the Teams’ lead out to 107, doubling the margin prior to the round.

Points after The Bend

Brodie Kostecki: 1st, 1895 points

Shane van Gisbergen: 2nd 1758 points

RND9: Penrite Oil Sandown 500

Enter the co-drivers: Kostecki and David Russell up against van Gisbergen and Richie Stanaway.

With the title fight at its closest since 2018 and two enduros worth 300 points each, the impact of the co-driver on the 2023 title fight was substantial.

A horror run through qualifying saw van Gisbergen/Stanaway start 19th on the grid while Kostecki/Russell started P2, alongside Feeney/Jamie Whincup. At face value, this title fight appeared to be about to swing massively in favour of Kostecki. What panned out in Race 23, however, was quite the contrary.

Brown error hands final podium spot to van Gisbergen

An impressive storm through the field by van Gisbergen/Stanaway came to a climax following a bp ultimate Safety Car restart on Lap 144. The pair had climbed to P4, and was attacking the rear of the Brown/Jack Perkins entry. Ahead of the battle, Kostecki was engaged in one of his own with Feeney.

A costly error on lap 154 by Brown handed a podium finish to van Gisbergen, and Feeney sealed the race win over Kostecki. Brown was now 294 points behind his teammate, and Triple Eight had slashed the teams' championship to just 95 points.

Points after Sandown

Brodie Kostecki: 1st, 2171 points

Shane van Gisbergen: 2nd, 2016 points

RND10: Repco Bathurst 1000

If ever there was a way to make a statement at the Mountain, it’s in the Top Ten Shootout. And boy, did Kostecki make a statement.

Not only did the series leader take his first Repco Bathurst 1000 pole, he did so convincingly, smashing the field to the tune of half a second.

A courageous middle sector had the Mountain in shock, bouncing back from being down in the first sector. What followed was full commitment across the top and a millimetre-perfect execution to finish the lap.

The #99 Coca-Cola Racing Camaro was dialled in the entire weekend, and Brodie was at his very best.

ONBOARD: Kostecki's incredible 2:04.2719s Shootout lap

Come race day, it was a different narrative. The Kostecki/Russell car led at halfway and pitted, handing the lead to van Gisbergen/Stanaway. A week-long focus on race set-up paid dividends for Triple Eight in the second half of the Repco Bathurst 1000, with van Gisbergen/Stanway creeping further away from Kostecki/Russell with each stint.

A heartbreaking gearbox issue took Feeney/Whincup out of podium contention, and reported issues for both the #99 and #97 had all eyes glued to TV screens around Australia and the world. What played out was a healthy margin of 25 seconds on van Gisbergen/Stanaway over Kostecki/Russell following the final pit stops.

In this particular battle of youth versus experience, it was the latter that got the upper hand, with van Gisbergen and Stanway coasting to a 19-second victory, securing a vital 300 points to narrow the title chase to Kostecki.

Final lap: van Gisbergen scores Triple Eight's 10th Bathurst win

Points after Bathurst

Brodie Kostecki: 1st, 2447 points

Shane van Gisbergen: 2nd, 2316 points

RND11: Boost Mobile Gold Coast 500

The title fight was seemingly set to reach boiling point on the streets of Surfers Paradise, with just 131 points separating the two, and one of the most brutal tracks on the calendar the playground in which to settle the score. There was even the possibility of Kostecki wrapping up the championship before the final round in Adelaide.

What played out, however, was a redemption for the Blue Oval brigade and a string of long-awaited wins for the Ford camp.

Last lap: Reynolds denies charging Kostecki to win Race 26

Despite the championship leader striking back to claim pole position on Sunday, it was Waters and Reynolds who claimed the top spots of the podium.

Critically, the two title contestants in Kostecki and van Gisbergen secured identical results, with the drivers taking home P2 and P5 finishes.

Remarkably, the two left the Gold Coast with the exact points margin they entered with.

Final lap: Waters denies van Gisbergen in epic finish

Points after Gold Coast

Brodie Kostecki: 1st, 2696 points

Shane van Gisbergen: 2nd, 2565 points

Looking back, the 2023 season has proven to be a classic, but for now, we can be excited about the immediate future.

Can van Gisbergen, despite not leading the championship all season, end an incredible Supercars journey on a high? Or does another chapter in Supercars history begin this year with the name Kostecki?

Either way, the showdown on the streets of Adelaide will truly be something that cannot be missed.

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