Garry Rogers Motorsport’s replacement of Scott McLaughlin with Garth Tander has earned the departing driver’s approval, who’s called it a “special” recruitment for the team.
In December last year GRM confirmed it had recruited Tander to drive the seat vacated by McLaughlin, who ended his four-year tenure at the squad to join DJR Team Penske for 2017.
Tander’s move to GRM marks his second stint at the Dandenong squad, having begun his career in Supercars at the team in 1998 until the end of 2004. He then moved on to the Walkinshaw group to race for the HSV Dealer Team and the Holden Racing Team.
With Tander having finished second in the championship in 2000 and winning the Bathurst 1000 with Jason Bargwanna the same year, McLaughlin recognises the romanticism of Tander’s return to the team where it all began.
“I think it’s really cool actually,” McLaughlin told Supercars.com when asked about his replacement at GRM.
“I was joking with Garry [Rogers] last year about Tander coming back when that idea surfaced, and it’s quite funny how things worked out.
“Garth is one of the best racers out there, he’s a strong addition to GRM and it’s pretty special for the team to have the guy that did so much for them in the early years come back.
“It’ll be good for the team – they’ll be threats for sure.”
McLaughlin helped take GRM back to the front of the pack with a third place finish in the championship last year - the best since Tander in 2000 - while ending the team’s three-year long race win drought with eight victories since his arrival in 2013.
Despite moving north to a lucrative multi-year deal at growing Supercars powerhouse Penkse, McLaughlin still holds reservations around seeing his engineer at GRM Richard Hollway working with another driver.
“It’s definitely going to be weird seeing ‘Krusty’ on the other side of the fence,” said McLaughlin.
“He’s been my guy for so long, but you’ve just got to get used to it – I have some awesome guys in my new corner now [at Penske], and we’ll be trying tour best to beat those guys now.”
At the close of the 2016 season and into the new year, McLaughlin has spent a lot of time getting to know his new Queensland-squad before the championship starts.
“The team have honestly been fantastic,” said McLaughlin on his arrival to DJR Team Penkse.
“Everyone gets along really well and they’ve welcomed me with open arms.
“I’ve sat in on some meetings and understood where they’re going. Scott [Pye] and Fabian [Coulthard] worked together really well last year and managed to get down the road with their development program, so I’m very lucky that I’m stepping into something that’s half completed.
“We’ve just got to finish off the last little bits as a team now and we should be okay.”