Old teammates: Tander and rookie Whincup

  • 22/12/2014
  • By V8 Supercars
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

It's hard to think back to a time when Jamie Whincup was a winless, barely known driver in V8 Supercars.

He hit his stride at the Clipsal 500 with Triple Eight in 2006, winning two races in that first year and finishing 10th in the Championship. The second year with the team was all guns blazing, with Whincup challenging Garth Tander all the way to the end for the title, the West Australian only managing to clinch the crown by two points.

Tander knew the man he was fighting was going to be a force in V8 Supercars long before that final race at Phillip Island, when they were locked on points with one sprint left - the two had previously been teammates at Garry Rogers Motorsport in 2003, and raced as co-drivers at the Bathurst 1000.

Whincup remembers the time as an incredibly low point of his career - crashing the Holden Commodore VY they shared at the mountain, which he believes ultimately led to him losing a full-time drive and sitting out of the sport for a year.

However, Tander believes the time away helped his former teammate become the driver he is today - Tander spoke to v8supercars.com.au about a young Jamie Whincup.

"You could see in 2003 when we were teammates that he was seriously fast," Tander said.

"He went away in that time he was out of the Championship and made himself more complete, and continued that growth period when he was at Tasman [in 2005] and then into his Triple Eight time - so a very formidable competitor."

The now Holden Racing Team hero knew of Whincup before the two drove together at GRM, because of a Valvoline tie-up with Whincup's Formula Ford.

"Prior to joining us at GRM in 2003 he was an exceptional talent anyway," Tander said.

"He had done so well in Formula Ford, he was fast and the standout of the class in that period of time, running for the Valvoline Ford Team... so we obviously had a connection with him."

Tander - a three-time Bathurst 1000 winner and 2007 V8 Supercars Champion - had already won the great race in 2000 before 20-year old Whincup joined the team full-time in 2003.

"As soon as he jumped into the Supercar he was very good, but probably a little raw and made a few mistakes, which obviously Garry didn't agree with," Tander explained.

"He was incredibly quick in a Supercar, probably didn't get a real chance to showcase his talent that year because he was running an older generation car - that was in the changeover period time for models.

"So it was a tough period for him. But even in 2004 when he was sitting that year out and thought about his future, he was still really keen to get back in the series.

"It's a testament to him that he stuck at it then through that period to come back and now be having the success he's had."

Looking back on his career for the 'Who is Jamie Whincup' clip published prior to the official presentation of his sixth Championship, Whincup said of his time at GRM:

"I crashed the car at Bathurst. That was the end of that for me and I felt like I was almost set-up and put in a situation I couldn't show my potential."

However, he explained to v8supercars.com.au exactly what he meant by those words.

"I wasn't set-up - they were annoyed at me for crashing the car, but did nothing about trying to prevent it in a way," he said.

"I was a rookie, I was teaming up with Garth, who was very competitive at the time. And he wouldn't let me move his race seat. I literally couldn't see over the steering wheel.

"Coming over the top of the hill, I was so far I was reaching for the pedal ...the situation was I ended up crashing the car because I couldn't see over the steering wheel, in a roundabout way. That was where the comment was coming from that I was set-up ... it didn't come across the way I wanted [in the video]."

For Whincup, it is just one piece of the puzzle that has ultimately been a successful V8 Supercars career - and with more yet to come.

He's taken that 2003 experience and used it to his favour when sharing with a co-driver - and has won four Bathurst 1000s, a Sandown 500, four Gold Coast enduros and this year, the Pirtek Enduro Cup with Paul Dumbrell.

"They [GRM] could've gotten a better result for themselves for making me comfortable - so I've learned from that and make sure my co-drivers have got all the tools they need to do a good job. If I don't give them that, then how do I expect them to perform at their best, if I don't give them everything they need?"

Tander was matter-of-fact about it all, looking back: "He was the junior so he had to accommodate me!"

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