Garry Jacobson has been dropped by PremiAir Racing effective immediately after a lacklustre weekend at the Darwin Triple Crown — and it spark plenty of action in the 2023 driver market.
Jacobson is in his fourth full-time Supercars season and his second with the former Team Sydney squad but won’t line up on the grid at the next race in Townsville.
“PremiAir Racing wishes to confirm that effective immediately, Garry Jacobson and PremiAir Racing have parted ways,” the team said in a statement.
“PremiAir Racing is exploring its options regarding a replacement driver for the #76 Subway PremiAir Racing Supercar.
“Announcements regarding the new driver for the #76 will be made at the earliest possible opportunity. PremiAir Racing will be making no further comment regarding Garry’s departure and wishes him well for his future endeavours.”
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Jacobson had suffered a high-profile messy weekend in Darwin, where he was involved in several on-track incidents. He appeared to have a role in the first-lap smash that suspended Sunday’s first race, and later that afternoon he was slapped with a drive-through penalty for punting Zak Best off the road and causing a safety car.
The 30-year-old was contrite at the end of the weekend and owned up to his mistakes.
“I will wear my heart on my sleeve, and the honest answer here is that I was trying hard to get back through the field today, and while I made some good passing manoeuvres, I also made some passing manoeuvres I reckon I could have a bit of a rethink on,” he admitted.
“As a competitor I don’t want to be at the back and I will always want to be racing up the front, and in my racing career I have generally been trying to be more aggressive as my career goes on, but unfortunately sometimes in practising that you can overstep the line.”
The crashes were the culmination of a season that yielded only three top-10 finishes, leaving him 24th in the championship standings ahead of only Jack Smith among the full-timers.
It’s the latest ruthless contract move for what is essentially a brand-new team headed by the ambitious Peter Xiberras, who moved the team from Sydney to the Gold Coast after purchasing the squad during the off-season.
Garry Jacobson and Fabian Coulthard’s contracts were dissolved as the squad changed hands, and though Jacobson had his deal reinstated, Coulthard, who was paid a salary by the team, was cut loose in favour of the Coca-Cola-backed Chris Pither.
The 13-time race winner later said he’d let several other possible contract opportunities pass him by because he’d been kept in the dark about the status of his contract and preferred to stay loyal to the team.
The sudden sacking has the potential to fire the 2023 driver market into life, with several leading drivers out of contract at the end of the season.
PremiAir has less than three weeks to sign a replacement driver before the Townsville 500 on 8–10 July.
The team recently evaluated a stable of young racers at a private Queensland Raceway test at the end of May, including Super2 drivers Tyler Everingham and Cameron Hill, third and fourth in the standings respectively; Porsche Carrera Cup leader Harri Jones; and Tickford Bathurst 1000 co-driver Zane Goddard, who walked away from Matt Stone Racing at the end of last season.
Broc Feeney was also in attendance as a reference driver to validate the results of the test.
Goddard, who competed in this year’s S5000 series, is thought to be the most likely option to replace the ousted Jacobson given he was the only driver among those attending the private test who already has a Bathurst co-driver contract, suggesting he was being evaluated for some other opportunity, albeit one unclear at the time.
Kurt Kostecki, likewise signed up for a Tickford Bathurst spin after co-driving with brother Jake for MSR last season, has also been linked to the seat.
Signing either Goddard or Kostecki would force Tickford into a new search for another co-driver to slot into its four-car Bathurst entry.
Elsewhere on the grid Will Davison at Dick Johnson Racing is without a deal next season, though he’s likely to retain his seat off the back of a strong 2022 campaign. There are rumours, however, that the team is considering its long-term plans and may be tempted to snap up the highly rated Will Brown from Erebus — a task perhaps made easier by the Victorian team’s inconsistent performances this season.
The 2015 Supercars champion, Mark Winterbottom, is also out of contract, and though Frosty says he wants to continue, Team 18 owner Charlie Schwerkolt said earlier this month he’s yet to open discussions on the matter.
“He’s an incredible guy and he’s been great for my team to bring potential sponsors on and some of the staff in the early days when we went to two cars,” he told the Parked Up podcast. “He’s been a great asset.
“We haven’t had that discussion yet. We’ve probably got to soon, see where we go and what we do.
“I like Frosty. He’s certainly on my radar to keep.”
Tickford will have to juggle its four drivers, all of whom are under contract next season, if it wants to fit Zak Best into its line-up. The 2021 Super2 runner-up had his first of two confirmed wildcard appearances in Darwin, where he was involved in one of the incidents that contributed to Jacobson’s demise.
Both drivers at Grove are out of contract and the team is determined to promoted Super2 leader Matt Payne into the main game in 2023, having been denied the opportunity this season owing to licence requirements.
Dave Reynolds, currently fifth in the standings, is sure to keep his place. Lee Holdsworth, who had unexpectedly found himself seatless last season when Tickford shrank to three garages but won the consolation prize of a Bathurst 1000 victory with Chaz Mostert, seems likely to bow out of the team on his own terms.