Tander stands on podium

  • 24/08/2014
  • By V8 Supercars
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

Last time the Holden Racing Team debuted a chassis at Eastern Creek Raceway, it won, with Mark Skaife behind the wheel in 2007.

And yesterday Garth Tander came tantalisingly close to repeating the feat, coming home second in the rain affected first race, despite starting 14th on the grid.

While plenty of eyes have been on teammate James Courtney after his 200km big points win at the last event in Ipswich and climb to fourth in the Championship race, the 2007 V8 Supercars Champion yesterday showed both cars are ones to watch- and he's looking to keep that record alive and stand on the top step today, when there is even more at stake.

Already up to seventh after the first lap in the wet, Tander was second by lap 17 - but leader and eventual winner of both Saturday races Shane van Gisbergen was in a league of his own.

"The first race was good, the car was really good straight from out of the gate, so the car felt comfortable," Tander told v8supecars.com.au.

"Then we had good pace at that last part as well - obviously not as good as Shane but we had the rest of het field covered, so that was really good, I really enjoyed that.

"I had some really good battles with Jamie and Rick and Craig, so really, really enjoyed it. Didn't enjoy the second one so much."

The #2 HRT driver was on for another top 10 finish in the day's second run, until a clash with Todd Kelly with just a handful of laps to go. Needless to say, Tander was less than impressed post-race, recording a DNF despite running solidly around sixth place for the majority of the race.

"He dived up the inside of me at turn one, ran wide, so I got back up the inside of him at the run to two. Before we were even on the brake pedal he just drove straight into my front wheel and just broke a steering arm, popped the tyre off the bead and that was our race. Disappointing, but that's Todd."

Plenty of drivers were on the radios complaining about visibility during both races - for Tander, that was accentuated with one of the new car's niggles with the wipers.

"The windscreen wipers didn't work in either race, and that's what you need for wet racing! But we'll fix that, no big deal.

"The car's fine, responding as we hope and expect... it's not revolutionary, because you can't build revolutionary new cars anymore, so it's a nicer more refined package."

And while his teammate has been the one garnering most of the media attention after his performance after the last round and cheeky confidence of nabbing the Championship from leader Jamie Whincup, Tander has again reminded up why he's also one of the best in the business.

Courtney declared the HRT is back, to challenge the best- and yesterday we saw it back with both cars.

"We've been back with both cars I think for a little while," Tander, who won in Townsville two rounds ago, said.

"He (Courtney) has probably had some stronger results that I have, but the car speed we've had has been good for a while now.

"It was nice in that first one, we came from 14th through to second. So, good for the entire team.

"We didn't quite get the mark right in that race two, but you know, we know we're going in the right direction with the whole team and both side of the garage. Even the Walkinshaw Racing boys are getting there as well so it's all coming together."

New-for-2014 team boss Adrian Burgess was quick to praise Tander's drive in the wet.

"He did a fantastic job in the first race - clearly we didn't do a great job in qualifying, we didn't have a great balance for him, so we made it hard for him," Burgess told v8supercars.com.au.

"That's normal GT - first lap, (he passes) six or seven cars ... we know he's safe reliable hands in the wet. He did a good job, just picked them off, picked them off.

"We probably wouldn't have god close to the win, maybe if we'd qualified better we could've had a shot at it but very happy with that first race with the chassis and he stuck it on the podium and that's good."

Typically Burgess shied away from buying into the 'we're back' declarations.

"We're putting all the effort into all the cars, so that's fantastic seeing GT firing again and popping out the results we expect.

"I wouldn't say we're back yet, we're still working on it ... I think the rebuilding is done, now we've just got to make sure we do a good job in every session."

Of course, Tander's hoping to repeat the 2007 record and score that elusive race win today in new chassis WR021.

"We just missed out on that (yesterday), we'll try again (today)," he smiled.

It's anyone's guess whether weather will play another big part - but with one set of Dunlop soft tyres to use, and a limit on wet weather rubber, strategy as always will be a defining factor in the valuable 200km run around Sydney Motorsport Park.

"We need to qualify first, see what we need to deal with after qualifying - we've got a few options strategy-wise depending on where we qualify, and then the wildcard is the weather," Tander said.

"The forecast is a bit better (than Saturday) but it probably worked out to be a bit worse today than what they were expecting so ... we'll see what we've got."

A handful of drivers made charges throughout yesterday's races, withJason Bright up 11 spots to ninth and Jack Perkins up10 into 15th during Race 26, and Chaz Mostert up nine to second, Will Davison up 13 into fifth, Russell Ingall and Craig Lowndes up 10 into 10th and 11th, and David Wall up 11 places to 14th in Race 27.

Qualifying kicks off at 12.40pm, with Race 28 of the Championship at 3.45pm.

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