Scott McLaughlin and Shell V-Power Racing again swept all before them in the 2020 edition of the Supercars Championship.
A third-straight drivers title for McLaughlin came after seeing off the best efforts of his usual challengers from the Red Bull Holden Racing Team.
But those who did the bulk of the winning weren’t the only drivers to shine through what was a unique season.
Supercars.com’s annual top 10 drivers list aims to consider the equipment and opportunities each driver had at their disposal, digging deeper than just the championship results.
There are some notable omissions, including two drivers who finished in the championship’s top 10 – Fabian Coulthard and Mark Winterbottom.
Ultimately both were outdone by their teammates; Coulthard once again comprehensively beaten by McLaughlin, and Winterbottom edged by Team 18’s 2020 recruit Scott Pye.
10) Will Davison
Team: Tickford Racing Championship: 24th Wins: 0 Average finish: 3.67 Poles: 0 Average qualifying: 3.25
Giving a place on this list to a driver who only completed two events may seen unconventional. But it's fitting, given Davison’s season was anything but normal.
The story of his heartbreak – losing his drive when 23Red Racing’s sponsor pulled the plug amid the COVID-19 pandemic – is well documented.
But before then, he’d topped the pre-season test, left Adelaide equal fourth in points and was on top of the qualifying averages table when the season was halted after two sessions at Albert Park.
Following his stint on the sidelines, Davison was a strong co-driver to Cameron Waters at Bathurst – losing track position to Shane van Gisbergen in tricky conditions early on his only blemish.
Still, he did enough during their run to second place to earn a mighty reward in the shape of a Dick Johnson Racing drive for 2021, and 10th on this list.
9) Andre Heimgartner
Team: Kelly Racing Championship: 14th Wins: 0 Average finish: 11.92 Poles: 1 Average qualifying: 12.66
It was all change at Kelly Racing over the off-season, with its seven-year Nissan Altima program parked in favour of brand-new, in-house developed Ford Mustangs.
What didn’t change though was Heimgartner’s position as team leader, again largely outshining the still highly-rated 2006 champion and two-time Bathurst winner Rick Kelly.
Both cars lacked consistency across the season, but Heimgartner was able to make more of his opportunities, including a career-first ARMOR ALL Pole in Sydney.
A pair of podiums – at Sydney and The Bend – were the highlights, although the former result was dampened by the fact it was so close to a breakthrough win.
It's the second year in a row Heimgartner has earned a place in our top 10 list despite finishing outside the 10 in the championship. He remains a star on the rise.
8) Scott Pye
Team: Team 18 Championship: 9th Wins: 0 Average finish: 10.46 Poles: 0 Average qualifying: 13.55
Pye entered 2020 following three competitive seasons alongside James Courtney at Walkinshaw Andretti United, and faced another intra-team battle against a Supercars champion at Team 18.
While Mark Winterbottom put the runs on the board early, Pye eventually turned the tide and ended up just one place – and 20 points – ahead of the 2015 champion in the standings.
Edging Winterbottom to the squad’s first podium as a standalone outfit in Darwin was clearly sweet, and adding two more rostrums at Hidden Valley2 only hammered that home.
It could have been even better though, as Pye continually qualified down the order only to race his way forward. In seven straight races mid-season, Pye scored top 10 results having started 11th or worse.
Had he been able to extract more from the car over one lap, Pye would surely have finished even higher in the championship, and on this list.
7) Anton De Pasquale
Team: Penrite Racing Championship: 8th Wins: 1 Average finish: 8.96 Poles: 0 Average qualifying: 9.55
After showing great promise during his first two years in the category, the next step for De Pasquale in 2020 was to start putting consistent results on the board.
Despite it being a tough season for Penrite Racing, and particularly teammate David Reynolds, the youngster found a way to shine.
His early-season Sydney podium and Darwin victory were somewhat clouded by the tyre format that his own boss had slammed as “fake racing”.
But five top-five finishes in the back half of the season, including another podium at The Bend, were every bit legitimate, and eighth in the standings bettered Reynolds by four places.
It was the season De Pasquale needed to have and proved enough to earn a seat alongside Davison at DJR for 2021, making the youngster McLaughlin’s heir apparent.
6) Jamie Whincup
Team: Red Bull Holden Racing Team Championship: 4th Wins: 4 Average finish: 5.81 Poles: 6 Average qualifying: 4.79
Sixth in this list may seem like a harsh mark for Whincup, given he was the only driver to put up any sort of resistance to McLaughlin’s championship charge.
Announcing he’d race on for at least two more years on the eve of the Adelaide opener, Whincup immediately proved he’s lost none of his speed, taking the year’s first pole and race win.
He was strong through the bulk of the season, ending up second only to McLaughlin on total poles, wins and podiums, and carried plenty of momentum into the last three events.
But unfortunately, two key late-season setbacks - a clash with McLaughlin at The Bend and a crash at Bathurst - were very much his own doing.
The Bathurst incident was a rookie error and not one expected from Supercars’ all-time great. It dropped him from second to fourth in the standings, and left him sixth on this list.
5) Nick Percat
Team: Brad Jones Racing Championship: 7th Wins: 2 Average finish: 7.72 Poles: 1 Average qualifying: 7.93
If Whincup failed to make the most of what he had, Percat spent much of the season doing the opposite.
He was the feel-good story when the championship resumed from the COVID-19 break, taking a win at both Sydney events, thanks to a mix of clever tyre strategy and faultless driving.
There was just one more podium, scored at Hidden Valley2, and Percat slid from fourth in the standings mid-season to an eventual seventh.
That was still 10 places higher than his nearest teammate, Todd Hazelwood, in a year where Percat may have benefited from a closer intra-team benchmark.
Being taken out by Shane van Gisbergen in Darwin and an engine failure in Townsville – a circuit where he and Hazelwood both scored sensational poles – didn’t help his tally.
Bathurst was a disaster thanks to a litany of car issues in the race. His Shootout lap though had been mighty, and being robbed of fourth on the grid for a technical infringement was cruel luck.
4) Chaz Mostert
Team: Walkinshaw Andretti United Championship: 5th Wins: 0 Average finish: 8.22 Poles: 1 Average qualifying: 7.41
Having walked out of his long-time home at Tickford Racing in favour of Walkinshaw Andretti United at the end of 2019, there was plenty of attention on Mostert this season.
He ultimately didn’t win a race, but a lot of boxes were ticked. Fifth in the championship with five podiums – including one at Bathurst – and a pole position was a solid haul.
There were struggles along the way as the team faced a difficult season in which to develop, being away from their base and without the luxury of testing, but Mostert kept his expectations in-check throughout.
Most importantly, he injected a real energy and belief into what has long been an underachieving squad. Right from topping Thursday practice in Adelaide, Mostert put the team on the map as a contender.
Fifth in points equalled Mostert’s best-ever championship finish with Tickford, scored in 2017 and ’19. It's a great platform for a big 2021.
3) Shane van Gisbergen
Team: Red Bull Holden Racing Team Championship: 3rd Wins: 4 Average finish: 5.76 Poles: 3 Average qualifying: 6.14
For much of the year, it looked like being somewhat of a wasted season for van Gisbergen, who spent much of it in the shadow of teammate Whincup, before ultimately beating him in points for a third straight year.
Van Gisbergen’s championship hopes suffered an immediate blow with a suspension failure in Adelaide, and the consequences of that DNF only became greater when the season was shortened.
The results were a rollercoaster across Sydney, Darwin and Townsville, with niggling engine issues and a power steering failure on Saturday of Townsville2 hampering his cause.
But he drove brilliantly to win the last two Townsville2 races and won another sprint at The Bend, in a contest where he managed his failing tyres – and his rivals – to perfection.
And then there was Bathurst, where he was mesmerising as he snatched the lead in the rain, and then flatly refused to make a mistake in the dying stages against a seemingly quicker Waters.
When all was well, van Gisbergen was the best out there, but there wasn’t quite enough of those days during the campaign. Overall, third in the championship – and on this list – seemed a fair result.
2) Cameron Waters
Team: Tickford Racing Championship: 2nd Wins: 1 Average finish: 6.04 Poles: 1 Average qualifying: 4.97
While Mostert could be afforded some time to settle into his new home following his exit from Tickford, the move lumped a heap of pressure on Waters to step up as Tickford’s team leader.
Now in his fifth full-time Supercars season with the squad, quiet achievement and improvement was no longer enough. He had to leave his mark.
A podium in Adelaide was a strong start, before the Monster crew played the big-picture game on tyre strategies during the mixed-tyre events, as their teammates scored podiums and wins by going all-in.
Still, Waters kept his head down and added five more podiums across Darwin and Townsville, before going 3-3-1 at The Bend2 – the last of those results marking a career-first win in a single-driver race.
If that appeared the breakout performance, it wasn’t. That came at Bathurst where, despite ultimately finishing second, he’d led the way for the bulk of the weekend, including scoring a sensational pole.
It netted a fine second in the championship, the best result for a Tickord driver since Winterbottom’s title in 2015, and marks Waters as a genuine title threat for 2021.
1) Scott McLaughlin
Team: DJR Team Penske Championship: 1st Wins: 13 Average finish: 3.67 Poles: 15 Average qualifying: 3.03
While Waters and van Gisbergen ended the year with a flurry, there was no doubt as to who was the driver of the season.
The numbers say it all. A third-straight title with easily the most poles, wins and podiums of anyone in the field.
Despite the variability of the mixed tyre format used early in the season, McLaughlin won at least one race at every event outside of Bathurst. That alone was extraordinary.
On pure pace, car #17 wasn’t as dominant as in 2019 but, as a driver, it appeared his most complete performance. Following some stinging criticism from rivals last year, it was clearly very sweet.
McLaughlin’s ability to rebound from tough qualifying runs in Townsville were also impressive, while a botched restart at Darwin1 and a tangle with Lee Holdsworth at The Bend were the only blemishes.
Bathurst though was disappointing – the Shell Ford nowhere near as strong in qualifying or the race as it appeared all year, or indeed at the Mountain previously.
While that made for a muted finish, no one could begrudge McLaughlin his title, or the exciting future that now awaits him in America’s IndyCar Series.