It was an explosive year of action and news both on and off the track in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
Supercars.com has narrowed down the biggest stories of the year in one of the most competitive seasons yet that saw 10 different winners from the first 12 races, a new champ, big wins for small teams and victories for all four manufacturers.
Here is part one of the stories that defined the 2016 championship – add to the conversation below.
20. Farewell Homebush, hello Newcastle
A new grand finale is set for 2017, with Supercars ready to invade Australia’s seventh largest city and showcase beaches meet buildings in paradise.
The Sydney Olympic Park circuit had its final run, and with soft tyres presented one final new challenge for the teams to overcome.
2015 champ Mark Winterbottom is just one of many in the Supercars community to rave about the Newcastle plans, with the street track being compared to the famed Monaco circuit.
After starting in Supercars with Mercedes Benz AMG E63s, Erebus owner Betty Klimenko made the tough decision to switch to Holdens this year in a time of monumental change for her team. David Reynolds debuted with the group – and impressed early – as the team shifted from Brisbane to Melbourne.
The team purchased Holden Commodores from Walkinshaw Racing but has made them their own throughout the year, which culminated in a podium finish for Reynolds in the final race of the year.
The day after the official end of season, veteran racer Jason Bright announced he would take his REC (Racing Entitlement Contract) from Brad Jones Racing and fill the gap left by Super Black, returning to Prodrive. It was announced earlier in the year that Nick Percat would replace him at BJR, but Bright hinted he’d be on the grid as he explored options. Signing MEGA means a new sponsor to the sport for 2017.
After 226 starts, Brad Jones Racing’s Tim Slade achieved the ultimate – his first Supercars race win. And then he went out and backed it up the next day, taking both races at Winton early in the season.
Even team boss Brad Jones admitted it was the most nervous he had been for some time.
After his major accident at Bathurst in 2015, Chaz Mostert’s first race in a Supercar was the gruelling Clipsal 500 Adelaide, with plenty of focus on whether he still had the speed to challenge up the front.
Pace wasn’t a problem – in his second qualifying session of the year, the young gun dialled the quickest lap around the street track, holding off six-time champ Jamie Whincup and showing he had nothing to fear.
Fan favourite and veteran racer Craig Lowndes clocked up a number never seen before when he lined up at Sydney Motorsport Park for his 600th race. It was the same circuit he debuted at back in 1999, and where he earned Triple Eight’s first ever race win.
Lowndes performed well over the weekend with a cracking start in his milestone race, but was ultimately beaten to the finish by teammate Jamie Whincup, who earned his 100th win with that victory and became the only other driver to enter triple figures along with Lowndes.
A high-speed collision with Fabian Coulthard saw driving standards observer Jason Bargwanna come down hard on the Holden Racing Team driver, issuing an immediate drive-through penalty and 10 grid spots for following day’s race for the contact.
The damage to Coulthard’s car was so severe DJR Team Penske pulled an all-nighter off-site at Pace Innovations, but miraculously had the car on the grid the next day.
The incident fuelled a war of words between the HRT camp and DJR Team Penske.
Temperatures were soaring in Adelaide on Sunday – no one thought there would be a torrential downpour, which caused all kinds of issues right at the race start.
For a time it was hard to tell whether the race had started, as some headed into pit lane after completing the warm up lap on slick tyres.
With a strategy masterstroke, Nick Percat and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport crossed the line first to take the team’s maiden victory, and Percat’s first solo win on home soil as others crunched the walls in the atrocious conditions.
At the time it was a big story – dominant race leader slips on oil laps before the end, going from 150 points to zero in a second – but now we know how the championship played out, it actually was a pivotal moment.
Shane van Gisbergen won Holden’s 500th race on Saturday at Symmons Plains and was almost a certainty to take out Sunday before sliding off track on Cam Waters’ oil and allowing Will Davison to sneak through.
Teammate Jamie Whincup had a shocker but instead of being disadvantaged he ended up earning more points than his rival.
Van Gisbergen refused to talk to media post-race, which showed just how disappointed he was with the finish and had us questioning if he would find consistency in his first season at Triple Eight.