AFTER another year when it seemed misbehaving sports stars spent as much time on the front page of the newspaper as the back page, it has been a pleasure to welcome the Supercars drivers back to Bathurst.
While drug and sex scandals have again hit rugby league and AFL, the Supercars drivers have maintained a standard that all professional sportspeople should follow.
As a group, they are the most intelligent and articulate sportspeople in the land.
And, just as importantly, they understand that the expectations placed on sports stars have changed over the years.
In the '70s and '80s, local motorsport was headlined by a stellar cast of characters that reflected the rough and ready times.
Peter Brock was the undisputed knight in shining armour - the handsome, charismatic and supremely talented driver who did more to promote the legend of Bathurst than anyone before or since.
Like all popular heroes, he had a loyal sidekick in Jim Richards who partnered Brock in three consecutive victories on the Mount before being replaced by the bookish, bespectacled Larry Perkins, who was co-driver for three more.
Then there was the battler in blue, Dick Johnson, driving his self-funded Ford to challenge the champion; everybody's mate Allan Grice in the almost comical Chickadee Commodore; and even the slightly sinister foreign interloper, Allan Moffat, here to claim our greatest prize.
These characters were the stars of motorsport in an era when Australia wanted their heroes to be a bit scruffy and unkempt, much like the nation itself.
But, in 2019, motorsport is a far more professional and well-presented endeavour - much like the stars themselves.
Veterans such as Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup, Garth Tander and Mark Winterbottom have enjoyed careers untarnished by scandal and the likes of Scott McLaughlin and Nick Percat are following that lead.
Today's drivers may not boast the personalities of Brock and Grice, but they are outstanding role models for young fans and wonderful ambassadors for their sport.
They are helping change the public perception of Supercars racing and that's reflected in the number of women and young children who now make the annual pilgrimage to Bathurst.
They are the stars of a new generation, and other sports in Australia could learn a lot from them.