Triple Eight eyeing new talent as generation change looms

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Triple Eight eyeing new talent as generation change looms
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Feb 5, 2018, 1:11 AM

Triple Eight boss Roland Dane says he's 'keeping an eye' on young driver talent both in and outside of Supercars, as the title-winning squad prepares for a generation shift in the coming years.

Craig Lowndes, Autobarn Lowndes Racing Holden
Craig Lowndes, Autobarn Lowndes Racing Holden
Jamie Whincup, Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
 Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Podium: Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden celebrate
Roland Dane, Triple Eight Race Engineering, Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden celebrate
Champion Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
 Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Ford, Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
 Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Podium: race winner Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
2017 Champion Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
2017 Champion Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden

The ultra-successful team could be facing a significant line-up change as soon as 2020, with star drivers Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes both out of contract at the end of the '19 season.

Both drivers have recently hinted that their current contracts could be their last as full-timers, with 43-year-old Lowndes making post-career plans, and seven-time champ Whincup simply remaining non-committal about his future.

Shane van Gisbergen is also out of contract at the end of next season, although is the most likely of the three current drivers to continue with the team.

Acknowledging that there is potential for vacancies to appear in the not-too-distant future, Dane says he's keeping a keen eye on potential recruits.

He reckons all options on the table, from bringing in an established driver in the same way that van Gisbergen joined the team in 2016, promoting talent from Super2, or even looking overseas.

"Honestly, we're fortunate enough that if you put every driver in Australia in a room and made them out 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," said Dane.

"That then means that, hopefully, if we wanted to go and talk to someone else we could.

"Having said that, of course we're keeping an eye all the time on who's coming up.

"If you go back to the lead group of drivers in 2012 in the development series, that group of Scott Pye, Nick Percat, Scott McLaughlin, and Chaz Mostert, they've all become full-time drivers. Two of them at a very high level, Chaz and Scotty McLaughlin are in the top four or five drivers in the category.

"You never know who is going to come through the development series, so we'll be watching that.

"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. 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... so it's not just in the immediate [Supercars] arena."

One option could be Super2 driver Kurt Kostecki, who works at Triple Eight as a mechanic in between his racing commitments.

According to Dane, the coming Super2 season will be an important opportunity for him to put his hand up as a genuine star of the future.

"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," Dane added.

"He built [Lowndes' new ZB Commodore]. He's an incredibly talented mechanic. But he's still got to prove himself in the development series.

"They're putting a lot of effort in this year. Geoff Slater is working with that team now. They've got good equipment, they need to string it together. Is Kurt one of those people you put up there?"

New Tekno recruit Jack Le Brocq, who will drive a brand new Triple Eight Commodore in the main series this year, is another driver Dane says he'll be keeping an eye on.

Bamber and Campbell also have their feet in the Triple Eight door, despite being firmly entrenched in the Porsche Motorsport programme at the moment.

Dane's interest in Campbell goes as far as plans to bring him to the Bathurst 1000 in a Wildcard entry this season, after failing to get him out of his Porsche commitments for the entire Supercars endurance season.

"I suspect Matt won't be available for a while," said Dane.

"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. Programmes 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."

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