In a year dominated by talk of downforce and domination, who really were the best performers of the 2019 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship?
Published in two parts, Supercars.com’s editorial team ranks the top 10 drivers of the year, starting with 10th through sixth.
While by no means definitive, the list aims to take into account equipment and opportunity, digging deeper into the season than just the final results.
There are some notable omissions, including Tickford veterans Will Davison and Lee Holdsworth, who had strong seasons but were largely outgunned by their younger teammates.
The other is second-year Penrite Racing driver Anton De Pasquale, who is highly rated and shone with two podiums, but ultimately failed to put consistent results on the board.
10) Garth Tander
Team: Red Bull Holden Racing Team
Championship: 27th (co-driver only)
Average finish: 5.00
Average qualifying: N/A
Our list starts with a somewhat left-field inclusion; Shane van Gisbergen’s co-driver at the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, Garth Tander.
His year started with a shock, dumped by Garry Rogers Motorsport in January to make way for Richie Stanaway and Boost Mobile backing, instantly ending a 21-year full-time career.
Red Bull HRT snapped up the three-time Bathurst winner before the GRM news had even become public, creating a four-driver enduro dream team unlike any seen before it.
While Jamie Whincup/Craig Lowndes ultimately won the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, Tander’s form was mighty, slotting into his long-time arch rival camp with apparent ease.
Second at Bathurst was followed by a second and a win at the Gold Coast and then a third in Sandown’s co-driver sprint.
His best performance though was saved for the Sandown 500 itself, where a stunning charge through the field set up what would have been one of the all-time great wins.
While a late suspension failure ruined the fairytale, it had been vintage Tander - who will go down as one of the greats of the modern era.
9) Fabian Coulthard
Team: Shell V-Power Racing
Average finish: 7.23
Average qualifying: 6.27
Having struggled in the final season of the Falcon, the more sure-footed Mustang appeared just the ticket for a Coulthard resurgence in 2019.
In the first half that proved very much the case, with nine podiums – including two wins – in the first 18 races to sit second in the standings, a strong back-up to Scott McLaughlin.
That’s when the wheels fell off Coulthard’s campaign and, while his teammate continued to rack up the trophies, the #12 entry didn’t see the podium again until the Newcastle finale.
Whatever the reasons for that slump, it made for another grim set of year-end stats compared to McLaughlin, who romped to the title with 18 wins.
Coulthard’s tough second half included a central role in the Bathurst controversy, holding back the field under Safety Car, which ultimately drew a slew of penalties.
Fourth in the standings was enough to earn Coulthard a place on this list, but it was a season that left more questions than answers.
8) Chaz Mostert
Team: Supercheap Auto Racing
Average finish: 6.14
Average qualifying: 6.66
Mostert’s year is arguably the hardest to rank of all drivers on the 2019 grid.
On the positive side, he outscored all three of his Tickford Racing teammates, was the only driver outside DJR Team Penske and Triple Eight to win a race, and bagged three fine poles.
Mostert is clearly one of the category’s premier talents, exemplified by Walkinshaw Andretti United’s aggressive – and ultimately successful – pursuit of his signature for 2020.
But his 2019 season will be remembered for the wrong reasons, including taking himself and teammate Cameron Waters out of contention for the Bathurst 1000 with a bungled overtaking attempt.
Unbelievably, it was the third year in a row he’d been responsible for the Monster car’s demise at Bathurst, and followed another tangle with Waters at Pukekohe.
Crashing out of the weekend on the Gold Coast added further to a tale of self-inflicted woe that leaves Mostert at the lower end of our top 10.
7) Nick Percat
Team: Brad Jones Racing
Average finish: 10.19
Average qualifying: 12.17
Percat was one of the quiet achievers of 2019.
Ninth in the standings was a strong effort for the Brad Jones Racing driver, in a season where the Mustang onslaught often made top 10 places hard to come by for Holden runners.
Percat ended the year six places higher in the standings than teammate Tim Slade, despite failing to see the podium, compared to two visits for the Freightliner entry.
The key stat for Percat was 20 top 10 finishes – double that of Slade – including 10 consecutive in the first half of the campaign.
Slade though had a slight edge across the season on qualifying averages, in a year where they were both inconsistent qualifiers in the tight midfield.
Still, Percat was very much BJR’s team leader in terms of race results, and will be the squad’s front-man in 2020, with three young teammates in tow.
6) Andre Heimgartner
Team: Plus Fitness Racing
Average finish: 13.24
Average qualifying: 13.10
Heimgartner is ranked a full 10 places higher on this list than his final championship position, but with good reason.
For the first time in his career, the Kiwi entered the season with the same team and engineer he’d finished the last, and put it to good use.
In a tough year for Kelly Racing’s ageing Altimas, Heimgartner proved the pick of the quartet; no mean feat against the quality of 2006 champion Rick Kelly.
Key to that appeared to be the youngster’s ability to adapt to the car’s new aero balance for 2019, which the team ultimately reversed mid-season.
The highlights for Heimgartner were a podium at Phillip Island, where the Altimas appeared at their happiest, and a second in the primary driver sprint at Sandown.
A series of disasters in the big-points PIRTEK Enduro Cup left Heimgartner further back in the standings than his fine season deserved.