The 2023 Supercars championship has drawn to a close following another enthralling instalment of the Adelaide 500. While the title fight may have been decided on Lap 1 of Saturday’s race, there was still plenty to digest from the finale.
From the crowning of a new champion to a special tribute livery winning on the streets of Adelaide and farewelling the great Shane van Gisbergen from Supercars – here are the talking points from the Adelaide 500.
Brodie Kostecki is the 2023 Supercars champion
26-year-old Kostecki becomes the 26th champion in the Australian touring car series history, with a sixth-place finish in Saturday’s Race 27 enough for the Coca-Cola racer to secure a maiden title.
Though it came, with a sense of the eagerly anticipated title fight fizzling out within the first sequence of corners. A tap from Anton De Pasquale on Kostecki’s teammate Will Brown coming out of Turn three, saw the Queenslander put into the wall with irreparable damage – as well as collecting van Gisbergen.
The three-time Supercars champion was fighting his way from sixth on the grid, only to be caught amongst the mid-pack shenanigans and out of the race on the opening lap. A ‘deflating’ way to end the championship in the Kiwi’s own words, ahead of his impending switch to NASCAR in 2024.
After the Safety Car restart on Lap six, Kostecki could play the rest of the 250km race safely with the likes of David Reynolds and Cameron Waters fighting for the win. Sixth for the Coca-Cola Camaro was enough to secure Kostecki’s maiden title.
A maiden title also for Erebus Motorsport, who celebrated their tenth anniversary of competing in Supercars in 2023. Kostecki only won his first Supercars race earlier in the season, in Race Four at Albert Park.
Erebus crowned team champions
Along with their first driver’s championship, thanks to Kostecki, Erebus Motorsport’s 10-year tenure in the Supercars series has finally yielded them a well-earned team championship too – beating out perennial juggernauts in Triple Eight.
With 10 wins, 29 podiums and 14 pole positions in 2023, this team borne out of the legendary Stone Brothers Racing and now owned by Betty Klimenko, cement its legacy in the Australian touring car scene.
It is easy to forget that Klimenko and Erebus back in 2013 came into Supercars, with Mercedes-Benz E63 AMGs under the Car of the Future regulations – only to be humbled by the challenge that lay ahead.
Three years of toiling with the Silver Arrows chassis, despite two wins courtesy of Lee Holdsworth in 2014 and Will Davison in 2015, saw Erebus relocate from Queensland to Melbourne in 2016 now spearheaded by Barry Ryan as team principal and Reynolds as their driver.
In 2017, the underdog David outfit conquered Goliath and won the Bathurst 1000, officially putting the team on the map as one to watch in future years.
The Penrite Racing years with the Reynolds and De Pasquale partnership between 2018 and 2020 saw the team show glimpses of being up there with the likes of Triple Eight and DJR, though they lacked consistency and the operational sharpness required to fight with the very best – week in and week out.
Changes were wrung in for 2021, promoting two rookies Kostecki and Brown to the main game. With the seismic Gen3 regulation changes being brought in for 2023, Erebus was prepared as a privateer team to capitalise and once again conquer the Goliaths of the sport.
Rookie Payne wins his maiden race to close out 2023
The streets of Adelaide again were witness to a rookie young gun taking out the final race of the season, as with Broc Feeney in 2022 – as Penrite Racing’s Matt Payne romped to a maiden Supercars win.
2023 Supercars champion Kostecki set a blinder of a lap in the Top Ten Shootout to eclipse the 21-year-old Kiwi by 0.031 seconds to pole position. Though the Penrite Mustang executed the better start to lead into the Senna chicane on the opening lap.
Payne did not look back from there, as Kostecki again had to deal with the likes of Waters and Mostert from behind. Ultimately, the rookie amassed an 8.5-second lead over 2022’s Sunday winner Feeney, with Penrite teammate Reynolds securing Grove’s best collective finish with third.
Feeney came to blows with Mostert on Lap 11, firstly passing the Mobil 1 Optus Mustang at Turn 6 and then being repassed at the following corner, but with the Red Bull Camaro being given a nudge.
That cost Mostert an extra five seconds at his first pit stop and took him out of podium contention, while the likes of van Gisbergen avoided sanction for opening his steering on Randle at Turn Four.
The Coca-Cola Camaros secured the team’s championship with Kostecki in eighth and Brown in his final race for Erebus before switching to rivals Triple Eight next year – in fourteenth. There was another battle between Brown and van Gisbergen during the race, though unfortunately, a power steering failure saw the NASCAR bound champion not classified for the second consecutive race.
Waters wins to farewell team boss
Coming into the Adelaide 500 weekend, it was at last confirmed that long-time Tickford team principal and CEO Tim Edwards would be moving to the new General Manager of Motorsport role for Supercars.
Thus making Waters’ Race 27 win on Saturday all the more emphatic, farewelling the ex-Jordan F1 team manager. Edwards first joined the team formerly known as FPR (Ford Performance Racing) and oversaw 83 wins, a championship in 2015 with Mark Winterbottom – as well as back-to-back Bathurst 1000 wins in 2013 and 2014.
Waters, sporting a tribute livery to the late Ken Block in conjunction with his primary sponsor Monster Energy, outlasted David Reynolds by 0.670 seconds to the chequered flag to claim his third win of the season from eighth on the grid.
The second pit-stop phase saw the Mildura-born Tickford racer emerge ahead of Reynolds, with the pair attacking the Senna chicane side-by-side. The Penrite Mustang eventually yielded but would not relent.
There was added delight at Tickford, with Thomas Randle completing the podium behind Reynolds for his fourth trip to the rostrum in 2023. While it was an all-Mustang top-four, with Edwards’ former driver in 2014-Bathurst winner Chaz Mostert coming home in fourth.
Edwards took over from Adrian Burgess at Supercars, with the latter’s Head of Motorsport role now morphed into a General Manager of Motorsport, with the roles of Category Technical Director and Performance Engineer yet to be filled.
Farewell to SVG & others from Supercars
While van Gisbergen is the major name dropping off the Supercars grid in 2024, with the three-time champion switching to NASCAR, there are other mainstay names that will be not returning as full-time drivers.
Amongst all the shuffling of drivers and teams during the season, Scott Pye, Todd Hazelwood, Declan Fraser and Jack Smith will all not feature as full-time drivers in 2024. Pye has been confirmed as an Enduro driver with Triple Eight, however.
Brad Jones Racing’s Jack Smith announced in the buildup to the Adelaide 500 that he would be stepping back from the SCT Logistics Camaro, with Super2 runner-up Zak Best widely tipped to take over. Smith has been a mainstay on the grid since 2020.
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Hazelwood also has been a regular on the grid since 2018 and has two separate stints at Matt Stone Racing, with two years at Brad Jones’ stable in between and in 2023 steering the Blanchard Racing Team’s Cooldrive Mustang.
An unfortunate casualty of the downsizing at Tickford has meant that 23-year-old Fraser who was the Super2 champion in 2022 – will also miss out on a full-time seat.