Kurt Kostecki felt like his wildcard start at Queensland Raceway was another Virgin Australian Supercars Championship debut but left satisfied with what he and his team has to build on.
Kostecki and the Triple Eight-built Arcoplate VF Commodore which he normally campaigns in the Dunlop Super2 Series joined the field at the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint, his first of two wildcard starts in 2018.
It represented a return to the top tier of Supercars for the 20-year-old after he and his car filled in at Preston Hire Racing for two events after Lee Holdsworth’s Hidden Valley crash in 2016.
Those weekends were a baptism of fire for Kostecki, who earned the ire of Tickford Racing for a near-miss which ruined Mark Winterbottom’s final run during an Armor All Qualifying session at Queensland Raceway.
Since then, he has racked up maiden race and round podiums in Super2 as KBR expanded to three cars, with cousin Brodie joining Kurt and Jake, and was bolstered by the addition of Bathurst 1000 winner Dr Geoff Slater as engineer and team manager.
Kostecki believes that the level of competition has moved on significantly since his initial efforts in the Championship two years ago, so much so that it felt like another debut.
“It definitely felt like the first (ie debut weekend), everything’s changed, every weekend things are changing in this sport so it’s good to see just how fast and how competitive it is all the way from the front to the back,” he explained to Speedcafe.com.
“It (also) felt different because we’ve put a lot more preparation into coming here.
“The last time I was here it was more a case of being thrown in and just get it done, but here we’ve put a few months’ work in to get it right.”
Kostecki qualified 27th and 26th for the two races and went on to finish each on the lead lap in 25th and 23rd respectively, the latter after a 15-second hold penalty for turning around Tim Blanchard.
He said that making the most of the soft compound tyre allocation at the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint, which Super2 does not use, was the crew’s biggest shortcoming.
“I think we had a decent weekend,” Kostecki added.
“Obviously qualifying for us was the biggest struggle, just trying to get the most out of everything all at once; the driver, the car, the tyres.
“That hurt us the most, but in the race we were pretty happy with our race pace so I think we can go home and work on what to do for the next one.
“Without the penalty, we might have finished in the high teens or around there so it’s promising for us for sure.”
The West Australian also had high praise for his Kostecki Brothers Racing team, which had also stepped up from Super2, having shaken off an ECU drama in the Additional Driver Practice session and clutch problem in Practice 1 on Friday.
“Honestly, I couldn’t really fault them,” Kostecki said.
“We had a couple of issues with the car just rolling out of the truck so we’ve got a few things to work on there but throughout the weekend the team ran really well.
“The pit stop wasn’t fantastic (in Race 19) but then they really tuned it up (in Race 20) and we were just faultless pretty much.
“(I’m) really happy with how they went and how everyone adapted and how everyone’s worked well together so we can keep building on that.”
Kostecki will have a second wildcard start in the OTR SuperSprint at The Bend on August 24-26 before returning to Super2 for Round 5 in support of the Rabble.Club Sandown 500 on September 14-16.