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The Aussie touring car champions who didn’t return to defend their crown

THE absence of Brodie Kostecki from the opening round of the 2024 Repco Supercars Championship at the Thrifty Bathurst 500 makes the 2023 champion part of a very select group of drivers not to return for the following season to defend their crown in Australia’s top motorsport championship.

With the relationship between Kostecki and his 2023 team Erebus Motorsport breaking down during the off-season and no resolution coming in time for the season-opener, the 26-year-old has joined a small group of drivers not to come and play, in Sale of the Century-speak, as ‘carry-over champion’.

He becomes just the fifth driver in championship history not to return to defend the crown in this, the 65th season in Australian Touring Car Championship/Supercars Championship history.

The first not to return was inaugural Australian Touring Car Champion David McKay.

He won the title – then determined by a single race – at Gnoo-Blas near Orange in 1960 but was not on the grid the following year at Lowood in Queensland in 1961.

Craig Lowndes at Oran Park in 1996. Photo: an1images.com / Graeme Neander.

Kiwi Robbie Francevic famously won the 1986 crown at the wheel of a turbocharged Volvo but fell out with the Volvo Dealer Team mid-way through that year’s Sandown 500, which was held after the completion of the ATCC.

He did return to race touring cars in Australia in 1987, however not until after the competition of the ATCC, when he accepted an invitation to drive one of the JPS Team BMW M3s at the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000.

1996 champion Craig Lowndes jetted to Europe in 1997 to tackle the International Formula 3000 Championship in an RSM Marko Lola and missed the championship, his seat taken by Kiwi Greg Murphy.

The duo teamed up in a Holden Racing Team Commodore after the ATCC was complete to win the 1997 Sandown 500 before Lowndes crashed out of that year’s Primus 1000 Classic at Bathurst.

Scott McLaughlin celebrates his third straight Supercars crown in 2020. Photo: Mark Horsburgh/Supercars.

Another overseas open-wheeler opportunity accounted for Scott McLaughlin not returning in 2021 to chase his fourth Supercars crown, an opportunity to join Team Penske in the IndyCar Series in the United States taking the Kiwi on a new career pathway.  

It should also be noted that 1972 (and indeed 1971) champion Bob Jane did compete in the opening two rounds of the 1973 championship, though took no further part in the series after racing his Camaro in round two at Calder.

Jane crossed the line to win the 50-lap race, however was excluded post-race due to his Camaro not being homologated under the Group C rulebook to race.

Brodie Kostecki at the 2023 VAILO Adelaide 500. Photo: Ross Gibb.
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