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The early 2000s saw a boom in popularity for what was then known as V8 Supercars. In a bid to help grow the sport and appeal to a wider audience, a number of new formats were implemented, including reverse-grid races.
The controversial format came into place at the first round on the streets of Canberra in 2000, ironically at arguably the least suitable circuit. With round rather than race results the focal point of a weekend, the change added a big variable to the event.
The narrow confines of the street circuit made passing nearly impossible, with the field reversed for the second of three races. The predicted carnage didn’t eventuate, though it did produce a surprise winner in the Holden Young Lions driver Todd Kelly.
Partial reverse-grid races followed in the second half of 2000. With Mark Skaife and the Holden Racing Team at the start of their dominant run, such formats would help try and spice up the action.
Reverse grids were limited to the Canberra 400 in 2001 and 2002, in a bid to differentiate the event and increase the amount of overtaking.
A qualifying session set the grid for the first race with the results from that race reversed to form the grid for the second race. The grid for the third race was set by the combined points total of the previous two races.
Steven Richards and Russell Ingall were triumphant in the reverse-grid races in 2001 and 2002 respectively, with the damage bill from those races a frustration for teams.
The demise of the Canberra 400 in 2002 saw reverse grids benched for the time being, only to resurface four years later. They were reintroduced in 2006, a season in which the points system was tweaked to reward consistency.
The format was used for the first time that season at the second round at Pukekohe, with a multi-car pile-up setting the tone for the troubles it would cause.
The format did achieve the desired result of mixing up the field and giving midfield teams the opportunity to challenge for race wins, with breakthrough victories for Garry Rogers Motorsport’s Dean Canto and Tasman Motorsport’s Jason Richards at Barbagallo and Winton respectively.
Other times, though, either the cream rose to the top or leading contenders who had troubled runs in the opening races prevailed, such as the HSV Dealer Team’s Garth Tander, Ford Performance Racing’s Jason Bright and Skaife across the Pukekohe, Hidden Valley, Queensland Raceway and Oran Park rounds.
Oran Park hosted the final reverse-grid race with the format dumped for the final four sprint rounds of the season. Drivers, teams and even fans were increasingly against the format, arguing it had done more harm than good.
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