Reigning champion Kostecki makes Supercars return

Oliver Caffrey |

Brodie Kostecki has battled to 12th place in his first practice session in New Zealand.
Brodie Kostecki has battled to 12th place in his first practice session in New Zealand.

Reigning Supercars champion Brodie Kostecki has made an inauspicious return to the track after sitting out the first two rounds of the season.

Kostecki was 12th-fastest in Friday’s practice session, won by dual Bathurst 1000 winner Chaz Mostert, as Supercars return for a round in New Zealand for the first time since 2022.

The 26-year-old was near the back of the field for most of the 90-minute session at the picturesque Taupo circuit, which has replaced the track in Pukekohe, just outside of Auckland, that closed two years ago.

Kostecki failed to race at Bathurst and Melbourne due to a messy dispute with Erebus.

But just 11 days ago Erebus announced Kostecki would be back in the driver’s seat in New Zealand, in a surprise development considering how frayed the relationship seemed.

Erebus lost multiple lucrative sponsors after Kostecki pulled out of racing at the start of the season.

By finishing outside the top three, Kostecki can avoid facing the media and further questions about his future.

He was approached by media in the Erebus garage on Friday, but politely declined a request for an interview.

The Perth-born driver did a brief TV interview before the practice session and was asked if he felt he could still be a championship contender.

“I think it’s one of those things, you just take it round by round,” Kostecki said.

“I’m just focusing on today, then there’s tomorrow – you can’t skip today to get to tomorrow. So we’ll just take it step by step. 

“I’m confident with the team around me, the boys always do a really good job here and we’ll just take it round by round and try to get as many trophies as we can. 

“There’s still a few big races that I’d like to tick off and just go from there.”

Chaz Mostert
Chaz Mostert was fastest in practice for the Supercars round in Taupo, New Zealand. (HANDOUT/EDGE PHOTOGRAPHICS)

Mostert led an all-Ford top three in practice, with New Zealander Matt Payne second and veteran Will Davison third.

Davison had no doubt Kostecki could be a “threat” this weekend and hoped he was happy.

Mostert was pleased Kostecki was back, sayng he would make other drivers quicker.

“You talk to him a little bit in the paddock, (he seems) in good spirits and ready to go racing,” Mostert said.

“He’s probably already spoken to a few of us, ready to bash into a few of our doors, which is good to see. 

“Hopefully he can find his feet as quick as he can because he makes everyone else lift in the championship; like what (Shane van Gisbergen) did for us for a lot of years, and when (Scott) McLaughlin was here.”

The first qualifying session will take place on Saturday morning, followed by a top-10 shootout ahead of a 60-lap race in the afternoon.