If you’re new to the Supercars Championship, you couldn’t have joined the party at a more pivotal moment.
The winds of change are blowing strong after an off-season full of major announcements that will shake up the fight for the title in 2021.
The same can be said for 2022 as well, but that’s a story for another time.
In the here and now, we enter a season where the defending champion, Scott McLaughlin, is absent, as the New Zealander races his first full-time season in IndyCar.
The team McLaughlin won his three Supercars titles with, Dick Johnson Racing, races on without Team Penske as the majority shareholder, and with a completely new lineup.
Fabian Coulthard has also departed from DJR, moving to Team Sydney.
In McLaughlin and Coulthard’s respective places sit two-time Bathurst winner, Will Davison, and young gun, Anton De Pasquale.
Davison has a proven track record and should be able to challenge for the title, off the back of a decent performance at last October’s Bathurst 1000, which served as the season finale.
De Pasquale has the potential to do great things, and had his best season in Supercars in 2020, taking his first win at the Darwin Triple Crown last August.
However, he might need some time to bed in to a team that can compete for championships, a position that De Pasquale has never found himself in before.
You should never write someone’s season off completely before they’ve at least had a chance to show you what they’re capable of, but it looks like Davison will be the team leader at DJR this season.
Red Bull Ampol Racing will keep the iconic rivalry between Holden and Ford alive for one last time.
Although Holden officially withdrew from the championship at the end of 2020, the Commodore ZB will still race this season.
This comes as a result of the new Gen3 regulations being delayed to 2022.
From 2016 until the introduction of the Mustang to the championship in 2019, Ford didn’t have any factory involvement but still allowed teams to use the Falcon, so the situation we have this season with Holden is nothing new.
Another big announcement that came earlier this month was that seven-time series champion Jamie Whincup would retire from racing at the end of this year.
Immediately, thoughts turned to Whincup going out in a blaze of glory.
If the Red Bull Ampol team shows the same performance as last season, but without the mistakes that cost them so dearly, an eighth title for Whincup is well and truly up for grabs.
Don’t count out Whincup’s teammate Shane Van Gisbergen either.
He couldn’t catch a break in the first half of last season, but turned it around to end it with a high on the top step of the podium at the Bathurst 1000.
You really can make the case for all four drivers from the top two teams, plus Tickford Racing’s Cameron Waters, who was unfortunate last year in that the pace his Mustang had wasn’t being converted into the wins he so deserved.
Like with Van Gisbergen, if all the stars align, Waters is another one to watch out for. Both drivers finished the season on a good note and that is one of the best confidence boosters a driver can have.
Until we see the cars out on track for the first time in anger at Bathurst in just under a fortnight’s time, things are shaping up to be so close that you’d have to be pretty bold to make definitive predictions at this early stage.
One prediction that should stick though is that this is going to be another awesome season of Supercars action.