ROLAND Dane doesn’t expect to be short of options should he need to find a new driver or two for the 2020 Supercars season, and one is already on Triple Eight’s books.
All three of his team’s main game drivers are contracted through to the end of the 2019 season.
However, Craig Lowndes’ two-year deal could potentially be the veteran’s swan song in a full-time role, while seven-time champion Jamie Whincup has also been making noises that he may also elect not to race into the next decade.
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When such a scenario was put to him, Dane coyly said: “You never know.
“Honestly, we’re fortunate enough that if you put every driver in Australia in a room, made them put their hand on a lie detector, and asked what team would they like to drive for, they would say DJR Team Penske or Triple Eight.
“That then means that, hopefully, if we wanted to go and talk to someone else we could.”
The depth of talent coming up through Supercars’ feeder system is evidenced by this year’s crop of five rookies, four of whom graduated through Super2 while the fifth used a cameo appearance in the development series to get himself sharp for the Enduro Cup.
“You never know who is going to come through the development series, so we’ll be watching that,” Dane said.
“We’ll also be watching further afield. I think you’ll see Richie Stanaway do a good job this year, I’d be surprised if he didn’t.
“He might take some time getting his head around the circuits or the rough and tumble, but … at the same token if you took Earl Bamber and put him in a car full-time if he ever wanted to do that, or Matty Campbell (it would be the same).”
‘I SUSPECT HE WON’T BE AVAILABLE FOR A WHILE’
Campbell impressed the team in a co-driving role alongside Shane van Gisbergen at last year’s Enduro Cup, and is on the team’s shopping list for a potential wildcard drive at Bathurst should the team run a V6 twin turbo-powered Commodore in the race.
While he will keep an eye on him, Dane doesn’t expect the promising young Queenslander to be available any time soon.
“If he doesn’t screw up in the Porsche arena, he’s probably done enough that they’ll allow him to develop. So I’d be surprised if we saw him for a while.
“But as you know, anything can happen in motorsport. Programs shut down. Sometimes it’s as simple as a driver like him says one day ‘I’m homesick, I want to come home’.
“So you do want to keep tabs on it. But I suspect it won’t be for a while with Matty, and good luck to him. I’ve got a lot of time for him.”
IS THE SOLUTION ALREADY AT TRIPLE EIGHT?
Dane also suggested a possible solution may already be under Triple Eight’s roof.
“We’ve actually got a really good talent in the company who may or may not turn out to be the real deal in Kurt Kostecki,” he said.
The 19-year-old has dovetailed a role as an apprentice mechanic at Triple Eight — helping build the new ZB Commodores and doing the driving during the car’s straight-line aero tests — with an apprenticeship behind the wheel in the Super2 Series.
Kostecki also recently took part in a driver evaluation day for Triple Eight, joining US sports car ace Jordan Taylor in a test session at Queensland Raceway.
“He built that car,” Dane said.
“He’s an incredibly talented mechanic, and a very good young guy. But he’s still got to prove himself in the development series.”
Kostecki will continue to race in Super2 this year for his family-owned team alongside younger brother Jake, the squad expanding to a trio of ex-Triple Eight cars with the arrival of cousin Brodie.
“They’re putting a lot of effort in this year,” Dane added.
“Geoff Slater is working with that team now. They’ve got good equipment, they need to string it together.”