20 years on: How Supercars looked in 2001

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 26/08/2021
  • By James Pavey, Pics by AN1 Images

It’s hard to believe we are now two - yes, two - decades on from the 2001 season.

So much has happened in Supercars since, with nine new series champions crowned.

When the 2001 season commenced, current series leader Shane van Gisbergen was only 11 years old.

Twenty years ago, Mark Skaife and the all-conquering Holden Racing Team combined for the second of three consecutive titles.

A year earlier, Skaife defeated Craig Lowndes, who arrived in 2001 as Ford’s new hope following his shock defection from Holden.

Skaife won nine races in 2001

Skaife won nine of the 2001 season’s 30 races to claim a fourth title, drawing him level with Bob Jane, Allan Moffat and Jim Richards.

Of the 13 events in 2001, six feature on the 2021 Repco Supercars Championship calendar: Phillip Island, Sydney Motorsport Park, Darwin, Winton, Bathurst and Sandown.

The season began with a non-championship event at Albert Park, with rookie Marcos Ambrose shocking the field as he stuck his Stone Brothers Racing Falcon on pole.

Skaife got his title defence off to the perfect start at Phillip Island, winning both races and collecting maximum points. Lowndes, on his Ford debut for Gibson Motorsport, was second.

Jason Bright, who replaced Lowndes at HRT, claimed overall honours on the streets of Adelaide with his first race win of the year on the Sunday.

Lowndes won the Saturday race, but famously tangled with Skaife late in the double-points Sunday race. With Skaife slumping to ninth, Bright snatched the points lead.

Sydney's Eastern Creek hosted the third round, with Greg Murphy becoming the fourth different winner in five races.

Lowndes and Ambrose had finished first and second in Race 1, but both were slapped with penalties, gifting the win to Murphy.

Skaife won Race 2 and the round after a penalty for a jumped-start dropped Murphy out of contention. Bright retained his championship lead with second overall, with Murphy third.

Bright won in Adelaide

The Hidden Valley visit saw Ambrose win the round despite failing to win a race. Murphy and Russell Ingall suffered separate mechanical dramas and Skaife was penalised for a jumped-start, leaving Bright to extend his series lead.

The turning point of the season was the trip to Canberra, with Skaife retaking the points lead from Bright, who had a shocker. Steven Johnson won the first race from a maiden pole, and claimed overall round honours with Skaife winning Race 3.

Having missed out to teammate Johnson in Canberra, Paul Radisich swept the Perth round, taking pole and all three wins. Skaife was second in all three races, and extended his series lead.

Skaife suffered a Calder Park disaster, finishing 14th overall at a round won by Paul Morris. Skaife started the first race on pole, but was penalised, opening the door to another Johnson win.

Johnson won in Canberra

An Oran Park sweep was the tonic for a Skaife rebound, but the Ipswich enduro fell the way of Johnson and Radisich after a thunderstorm struck Queensland Raceway.

Johnson and Radisich won the race in the gravel trap but were lucky as the red flag came out, putting the result to the previous lap. Skaife and Bright were fourth overall.

Ingall, desperate to shake off his bridesmaid tag, claimed his first round win of the season at Winton. Skaife was third overall, a strong comeback after a terrible qualifying.

Skaife and Bright were split for the Bathurst 1000, and Skaife put one hand on the 2001 crown with victory alongside Tony Longhurst.

2001 Bathurst 1000 results (top five)

1 Skaife/Longhurst Holden Racing Team 6h50m33.17s
2 Jones/Cleland Brad Jones Racing +2.28s
3 Kelly/Murphy Kmart Racing Team +17.94s
4 McLean/Ritter Dick Johnson Racing +26.11s
5 Richards/Canto Glenn Seton Racing +30.78s

Brad Jones and John Cleland finished second after starting 21st, with Todd Kelly and Murphy finishing third.

With Bright and co-driver Tomas Mezera failing to finish, Ingall moved into second overall after finishing eighth with Larry Perkins.

Skaife clinched the title in the Pukekohe opener, with the Auckland circuit hosting the first ever overseas event in championship history.

The round was duly won by hometown hero Murphy, with Skaife second ahead of Ambrose.

The Sandown finale began with a win for Skaife, his ninth of the season and 50th of his career. Kelly won Race 2 and later the round, with Lowndes winning the season’s final race.

The newly-crowned Skaife recorded a DNF after an incident with Steven Richards.

Ingall was second overall, the fourth time he had finished in the top three in the standings.

Skaife ended the season a staggering 603 points ahead, a record he improved 12 months later.

2001 drivers' championship standings

1 Mark Skaife Holden Racing Team 3478
2 Russell Ingall Perkins Engineering 2875
3 Jason Bright Holden Racing Team 2819
4 Greg Murphy Kmart Racing Team 2724
5 Steven Johnson Dick Johnson Racing 2532
6 Todd Kelly Kmart Racing Team 2479
7 Paul Radisich Dick Johnson Racing 2109
8 Marcos Ambrose Stone Brothers Racing 2086
9 Steven Ellery Steven Ellery Racing 2073
10 Garth Tander Garry Rogers Motorsport 2047

Bright was third in his season return ahead of Murphy, with Johnson the first Ford driver in fifth. Lowndes was 11th overall.

Holden won 21 races to Ford’s nine, with Skaife helping HRT to its fourth straight drivers’ title, and fifth in six years.

Skaife won win a fifth title in 2002, drawing him level with Ian Geoghegan and Dick Johnson.

Jamie Whincup would make it four drivers with five titles in 2013, before he rewrote the history books with his sixth (2014) and seventh (2017) championships.

Can he make it eight in 2021, or can van Gisbergen hold on to add to his 2016 title triumph?

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