Gen3 certainly threw a spanner in the works when it came to ranking the 10 best Supercars drivers of 2023.
Generally, the points table tells much of the story when it comes to a season of Supercars racing. But between engine bay fires, parity woes and more, things were significantly less straightforward this time around.
That's why it took a bit of a bickering for Speedcafe's Editorial Director Andrew van Leeuwen and Supercars Editor Daniel Herrero to land on their combined Top 10.
But they got there eventually. And here's how it looks.
10. Andre Heimgartner – Brad Jones Racing
Best Result: 2nd
AVL: I'll be honest, Heimgartner wasn't in my personal Top 10. Not that he was far out of it, and it was far from a poor season for the Kiwi. But, given the upper hand enjoyed by the Camaro drivers for much of the season, I think it was a missed opportunity for both him and BJR that they didn't snare a race win at some point like Matt Stone Racing and Team 18 were able to.
DH: Seventh in the championship in the end and pushed Le Brocq all the way that Sunday at Hidden Valley, when the Matt Stone Racing driver took victory. Lacked consistency with his car but still finished solidly inside the top 10, and did grace the podium six times in 2023. The lack of a win is a big miss, although that could have been different if not for a steering rack failure at SMP.
9. Matt Payne – Grove Racing
Best Qualifying: 2nd
AVL: Wasn't always at the front, probably to do with both the Ford parity and some inconsistencies on the Grove Racing front. But when the team did have car speed, particularly late in the season, Payne let his star quality shine. The Grove's have uncovered a real talent here, as so perfectly demonstrated by his first win in Adelaide. Very deserving of a place in our Top 10.
DH: Payne was far and away the top rookie of the season in a field of three, and finished it as the latest race winner in the Australian Touring Car Championship. Still outdone by his far more experienced team-mate but the young Kiwi is rapidly moving through his learning curve, and looks like a very good find by the Groves.
8. Jack Le Brocq – Matt Stone Racing
AVL: Of course the early speed of the Camaros didn't hurt, but it was still an impressive season for Le Brocq and MSR. Seeing Le Brocq pop up in the Top 10 in qualifying became quite normal and his win in Darwin proved that, with the right equipment and opportunity, he can get the job done. He basically earned a promotion to the fastest team in the category, which says a lot.
DH: The 2023 season may prove a career-defining one for Le Brocq, who not only broke through for a race win at Hidden Valley which meant far more than his only previous victory, at Sydney in 2020, but earned a call-up to the eventual championship-winning team. Le Brocq could not hold on to a place in the top 10 in the standings, but it was a close-run thing in the end.
7. David Reynolds – Grove Racing
AVL: Like Payne, Reynolds had to ride the highs and lows with the Groves to some extent. But when the team was on, he showed us that he is still an incredibly fast and competitive race driver. The Gold Coast win was a beauty, particularly as he did it in battle with Brodie Kostecki. There are times his aggression is questioned, but he got it right that day.
DH: Surprising to think of the resident larrikin as a veteran, but that's what Reynolds is these days – yet he showed he's far from a spent force when the circumstances are right. Fourth of the Ford drivers in the standings in the end and, while he could get the elbows out more, he did win on the Gold Coast by surviving the Kostecki blowtorch.
6. Will Brown – Erebus Motorsport
AVL: After a slightly ropey start to the season (think the spin at the AGP), Brown had an excellent first half. Winning races, looking like a title contender, and even scoring a deal with Triple Eight. But after that it all went a bit pear shaped. Never looked like a title contender from Sydney onwards and blew out to fifth in the points (and 600 points behind his teammate) despite being in the fastest car in the field.
DH: Deserves big props for four race wins and leading the championship but the back half of his season was a let-down, especially when one compares Brown's haul to title-winning team-mate Kostecki. Not only was he off the pace, he was off the track at The Bend and then crashed in qualifying at Bathurst. Did score a pole at Sandown in between, but that was the highlight of his final half-season at Erebus.
5. Cam Waters – Tickford Racing
AVL: Another impressive campaign from Waters, despite having an arm tied behind his back given the parity situation. He was probably the fastest Mustang driver in the field, as proven by his wins once the second round of aero changes came along, even if he finished behind Chaz Mostert in the points. In a streamlined Tickford team, should parity be sorted, could be a real threat in 2024.
DH: The first winner of the Gen3 era, with something of an asterisk due to the Triple Eight disqualification, then lost a possible ‘real' win when his Mustang quite literally caught fire – it was that sort of year for Waters. He did eventually get that real win on the Gold Coast – with the second new Mustang aero package – and nearly another in Adelaide. Once again the lead Tickford driver, even with something of a challenge from Randle this year.
4. Chaz Mostert – Walkinshaw Andretti United
Best Result: 2nd
Best Qualifying: 2nd
AVL: Strange old year for Mostert and WAU. Never looked to be swimming in outright pace (again, parity a contributor), but pulled something out of races so often. For it to be a rare winless season for Mostert, yet he was still able to finish fourth in the points (and win the Mustang Cup), it says a lot about his race craft and race smarts.
DH: No wins, no poles, but fourth in the championship, even beating one of the Erebus drivers, despite being in a Mustang; how did that happen? However it did, performances which stick out include the Townsville podium with the brand-new Ford aero package – which certainly was not to Mostert's liking at the time – and salvaging fourth on a tough Sunday at Mount Panorama.
3. Shane van Gisbergen – Triple Eight Race Engineering
AVL: Speaking of strange old years… it's so easy to feel like this was a horrible year for SVG. The complete dominance of 2021 and 2022 became a bit of a distant memory and he struggled with the Gen3 platform, spent most of the year complaining about steering and braking issues and was seen as completely disengaged with the series. Yet, had it not been for the DSQ in Newcastle (which wasn't his fault, obviously), he would have led the series heading to Adelaide and may have been hard to beat. I guess that's how much we expect from the guy. Second seems like a disaster.
DH: Van Gisbergen is a freakish talent – maybe the greatest Supercars has ever seen – and when he was hot in 2023, he was hot. Too often, though, frustrations with Gen3 – and probably an impatience to escape Supercars for NASCAR – seemed to get to him. Still arguably the best racer in the field but did not keep his head at times this year when others just got on with it. One does wonder how it might have been different if not for the Newcastle DSQ – on the points table and inside his head.
2. Broc Feeney – Triple Eight Race Engineering
AVL: To me, Feeney was one of the real revelations of the season. I'll admit, I'm surprised at how he stepped up. The trajectory was good after 2022, but the kid looks like the real deal now. I think SVG leaving Triple Eight would be a much bigger concern for the team if it wasn't for how Feeney has stood up this year. Genuine team leader material. Will be a big test for Will Brown next season.
DH: Second place on this list could arguably have been either of the Triple Eight drivers and while that was where van Gisbergen finished in the championship standings, it is worth noting the points which Feeney lost with the gear tower failure at Bathurst. However, the ultimately hard-fought Sandown victory, and numerous other occasions when he outdid van Gisbergen, shows that Feeney has well and truly got it.
1. Brodie Kostecki – Erebus Motorsport
AVL: You can say what you like about parity of anything else, but Kostecki is nothing but a hugely deserving champion. What an absolute superstar driver. Got on with the job in the Gen3 cars when others seemed to get distracted by their foibles, and maximised the very fast package that Erebus delivered him. There were plenty of signs that the guy was an A-plus driver before this year. Now he's put it beyond doubt.
DH: How could he not be top of this list? More wins than anyone else, more poles than anyone else, and while it is true that he probably had the best car of anyone, he maximised what he had. Brodie Kostecki also proved again that he is one of the best ‘racers' in the championship – and one of the smartest – and probably deserves more props than he did for driving around an ill-handling Camaro when he swept The Bend weekend.
AVL: There's two for me. The first is Thomas Randle, who just misses the cut here because of the edge in speed Waters had over him. But Randle is closing the gap, no doubt about it. He seems to have finally found his feet. The test is now whether he can give Waters more headaches next season.
My second is Anton De Pasquale. It was undeniably a tough year for Dick Johnson Racing, but, not unlike Mostert, ADP plugged away, grabbed a win when it came his way in Townsville, and finished inside the Top 10 in the points. He was 10th on ‘my' list for the season and unlucky to miss out on the combined list.
DH: Triple Eight's co-drivers, Jamie Whincup and Richie Stanaway, for mine. Whincup showed he has lost little, despite having to learn a new car in his second year out of the saddle, and Stanaway earned his career revival with that Bathurst win.
Hear AVL and Daniel debate their individual Top 10 lists in a special podcast.