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What history tells us about Kostecki’s title chances

CAN Brodie Kostecki win the 2024 Repco Supercars Championship title despite missing the opening two rounds of the season?

It may seem like an absurd question, but the 2024 Kostecki story to date has been so bizarre that it’s dangerous to rule anything out.

Five-time ATCC/Supercars champion turned TV pundit Mark Skaife has said as much this week, warning in the News Ltd papers not to write-off the defending champion.

“If he is back doing what we know he can do and the team does a really good job, I wouldn’t count them out,” Skaife said of Kostecki. “It’s a very tough assignment, but you can’t count them out.”

So what does history tell us about Kostecki’s chances? And if it were to happen, how would such a feat sit in the record books?

The biggest comebacks

Currently 575 points behind championship leader Will Brown, a Kostecki title would require the biggest comeback in ATCC/Supercars history – and by a big margin.

The current record is held by Jamie Whincup, who was 213 points behind Mark Winterbottom after five of 14 rounds in 2014 before going on to take his fifth title.

Champions have come from over 200 points down on just two other occasions; Whincup from 208 adrift in 2008 and James Courtney from 204 down in 2010.

Whincup celebrates his 2014 title in Sydney. Pic: an1images.com

Whincup’s blueprint

Whincup’s effort to retrieve a 213 point deficit in 2014 only tells part of the story from a remarkable season that gives credence to a Kostecki comeback.

The Triple Eight spearhead ended up winning that year’s title by a staggering 583 points, marking a 796 point swing against his rivals in the space of just nine rounds.

That makes Kostecki’s 575 point deficit appear more achievable, although he’ll have to do so against the might of Triple Eight, rather than with it.

Missing rounds

The aftermath of Lowndes’ 1999 rollover. Photo: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith.

Unsurprisingly, no driver has ever sat out two rounds in a title-winning season.

The most recent to miss a round entirely was Craig Lowndes in 1999 – the Holden Racing Team star sidelined for Symmons Plains due to knee surgery sustained during a rollover at Calder.

Whincup effectively missed the Hamilton event in 2008, failing to start either race after a qualifying crash, but is credited with a round start for taking part in the meeting.

To find the last driver to score zero points in two rounds during a title-winning season you have to wind the clock all the way back to Dick Johnson’s run in 1982, which included three DNFs.

The flipside

James Courtney in 2011. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

Taking a more pessimistic approach; what does Kostecki have to do to avoid the tag of the worst title defence in history?

To find this we must ignore the select group who didn’t attempt a defence at all, and Bob Jane’s 1973 campaign that ended after just two rounds.  

That leaves us with Courtney’s 10th place – 1299 points behind the winner – while wearing the #1 plate at the Holden Racing Team in 2011 following his title triumph with DJR.

Notably, Skaife missed the opening round as defending champion in 1995 due to injury, but still recovered to sixth in the final standings.

A final comparison

Will Brown congratulates Brodie Kostecki in Adelaide, 2023. Pic: Supplied/Race Project

While comparisons to a particular driver are far different to against the entire field, it’s interesting that Brown sits atop the championship as Kostecki starts his campaign.

Brown’s 575-point haul from a potential 620 across the first two rounds has been a remarkable way to follow his off-season move from Erebus to Triple Eight.

It’s easy to forget that Brown had been 43 points ahead of Kostecki midway through Round 6 last year and ended the season 624 behind – a 667 point swing between the same two drivers.

Winning the championship may be the last thing on Kostecki’s mind amid recent upheaval, but the 26-year-old declared Wednesday that he expects to be up the front at Taupō.

What happens from there is anyone’s guess.

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