Garth Tander has described his enduro co-driver role with the Red Bull Holden Racing Team as a ‘fantastic opportunity’ after the shock of his exit from Garry Rogers Motorsport.
The Supercars world was stunned by news earlier this week that the veteran had lost his seat at GRM to Richie Stanaway as part of a deal to bring Boost Mobile to the team as major sponsor.
Less than 24 hours later, however, came confirmation that Tander had somewhat landed on his feet by being recruited as a Pirtek Enduro Cup co-driver to Shane van Gisbergen in a two-year deal with Triple Eight Race Engineering.
The Banyo squad already appeared to have a number of options for potential co-drivers as it slimmed back to two cars with Craig Lowndes’ retirement from full-time driving.
Steven Richards ably assisted Lowndes in winning the 2018 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and Enduro Cup, 2012 Bathurst 1000 winner Paul Dumbrell is a shareholder in the team, and rising Porsche driver Matt Campbell, who drove with van Gisbergen in 2017, has no clashes with this year’s Supercars enduros.
Triple Eight nevertheless moved quickly to secure Tander’s services once he was delivered the news by GRM, making for a powerhouse enduro line-up.
“When I walked out of GRM, your mind starts racing after I was told I wasn’t going to be driving full-time,” Tander told Speedcafe.com.
“Do I stay at GRM? Do I do something else? Do I just give it all in altogether and just go and plant trees for a living or something like that?
“Your mind starts racing and the last thing you’re thinking is, ‘Geez, one of the plum enduro drives is still an option or available.’
“I’ve got to say, Roland’s a very fast operator, he certainly is, and I can see why their cars are so fast on-track because he gets things done in a hurry.
“Obviously for me, getting this opportunity to drive with Shane for the endurance races at Triple Eight is a fantastic opportunity.”
Such was the speed in which the deal was put together, Tander has not had the opportunity to speak properly with his new driving partner since the signing, but has a strong relationship with van Gisbergen anyway.
“We’ve spoken on text – I think he’s still away on holidays – but that was actually more so about what happened from the GRM point of view,” explained Tander.
“But Shane and I are good mates, we talk a lot anyway when we’re at the track, so I’m really looking forward to it.
“I really enjoyed racing against Shane throughout my career and I really look forward to working with him, the team, and Craig and Jamie as well.”
But for the possible exception of Richards and his five wins, it is Lowndes (seven wins), Whincup (four), and Tander (three) who are the most prolific active drivers (full-time or enduro only) in the Bathurst 1000.
While van Gisbergen does not have a Great Race win of his own, he, like Lowndes and Whincup, has tasted victory in the 12 Hour, and all four are past Virgin Australia Supercars Championship winners.
Last weekend’s confirmation of the Whincup/Lowndes pairing already had the latter warning against complacency over a likely favouritism tag, and Tander was taking a similar tack.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the team to go to those three races and have a really strong result but, in saying that, I’ve been in situations in the past where I’ve been in really strong driver line-ups and a really, really fast car and we didn’t even get a hundred metres up the road,” he cautioned, referring to his and Mark Skaife’s 2006 disaster.
“Bathurst is a cruel place and you can have all the preparation in the world and if it’s not your day, it’s not your day.
“They’ve proven they’ve got fast cars and I think the driving roster has got the runs on the board so what will be will be when we get out there.”
The 2019 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 is scheduled for October 10-13.
Prior to that, Triple Eight’s incumbents will share a Mercedes-AMG in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour while Tander will drive in an all-star Audi crew, from January 31-February 3.