With the battle for the 2016 title narrowed down to two contenders, the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship landed in Homebush for the Coates Hire Sydney 500 season finale, and the last round to be held around the concrete canyon Olympic Park street circuit. The on-track action was often as hot as the temperatures, though certainly not as hot as the champion’s tyres after a compulsory victory burnout on Sunday afternoon.
- Shane Van Gisbergen showed all that would watch why he is the 2016 champion putting in two solid drives to clinch his maiden Supercars championship. The young Kiwi, who made his debut at Oran Park in 2007, drove the best recovery drive of the year on Saturday to win the title with one race left. After a botched pass on Mark Winterbottom, he was given a pit lane penalty and dropped to 22nd. A fierce drive and great racecraft saw him finish third, enough to seal the deal. By securing the championship on Saturday, he was able to relax and drive however he wanted on Sunday.
- Garth Tander was able to send a great farewell message to the HRT by scoring two podiums and his first pole position since 2012 around the Sydney street circuit. After being shafted from the team for 2017, Tander put his recent slump in form behind him to nab an impressive second place in race one, followed by grabbing pole in the top ten shootout for race two. His Sunday race was strong, holding off van Gisbergen for a while and showing genuine pace. A few late cracks were not enough, but a second placing was as good as he could muster. Garth now has to find a seat for 2017 as he tries to show his now ex-team that they sacked the wrong driver.
- Jamie Whincup may not yet have the #1 back on his car but the six-time champion again displayed why he is one of the best, winning race one and finishing a hard fought fourth in race two. For the first time since winning championship one in 2008, Whincup must now go two seasons without the #1 on his car, something that will undoubtedly push him to go harder next year. He was pushed by the Kiwi this year and ultimately made too many mistakes. Expect the #88 to be better and faster next year.
- Jason Bright was unable to say goodbye to Brad Jones racing in the way that he wanted after crashing out of Sunday’s final race of the season. In his 98th round start for the Albury based team, he was already in the wars when he got in to the grey and then the fence. It was not the send-off that he or the team wanted, though taking his REC to Prodrive next season will undoubtedly lessen the blow.
- Rick Kelly had a less than amusing finish to the season when his alternator packed up in the dying laps of Sunday’s race. The failure was a reflection on his season, strong form often being undercut by uncontrollable issues. Not having yet won a race in his Nissan team must frustrate the 2006 champion who may just be wondering if it’s time to hang up his helmet.
- Mark Winterbottom ended his 2015 title defence on a low note, much like the rest of the season. Being spun by van Gisbergen early on in the race, he was effectively out of contention for a good result from the start. Sunday’s race, similar to the rest of the year, was a lacklustre affair, posting an equally unimpressive result. Things have changed for the reigning champion who has had to hand over his crown without putting up a fight. He and the rest of the Prodrive drivers will be looking for extra speed in 2017 to prove that they aren’t one-trick ponies.
That wraps it up for the 2016 edition of Supercars. We look forward to doing it all again next year!