Garth Tander recognises the romanticism of his back to the future move to Garry Rogers Motorsport, but regards it as a bonus of making the right career decision rather than a motivator for signing with the team.
The veteran Western Australian, who turns 40 in March, is convinced race wins and a potential shot at the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship are achievable at GRM.
“There is a bit of romanticism about it all, but in reality if you sit down and look at results over the last couple of years and the stability of the organisation then it’s a great opportunity from a driving point of view as well,” Tander told supercars.com.
Tander raced for GRM from 1998-2004, finished second in the 2000 Supercars (then V8 Supercars) championship and won the Bathurst 1000 with Jason Bargwanna the same year.
Since leaving GRM he has spent 12 years within the Walkinshaw Racing organisation, winning the championship for the HSV Dealer Team in 2007 and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 for the Holden Racing Team in 2009 and 2011.
He wrapped up his factory Holden career at the Coates Hire Sydney 500 in early December with two second places and a pole position.
His return to GRM – replacing DJR Team Penske-bound Scott McLaughlin - was announced by Garry Rogers yesterday, who also confirmed Tander was on a two-year deal but expected to stay longer term and become involved in young driver and business development.
“It is a great story with a very real romance attached to it, but the very real stats of GRM’s performance over the last couple of years make it a very favourable destination to be heading,” said Tander.
As has now been widely reported, GRM is in legal conflict with Volvo over the right to continue racing the S60 beyond the 2016 expiration its of factory-backed deal with the Swedish brand.
Both Garry Rogers and son Barry have been adamant that the S60s will race again in 2017, but have admitted there is doubt over the use of the B8444S V8 engine developed in Sweden by Volvo performance business Polestar for the Supercars campaign.
Despite that uncertainty, Tander says he is confident GRM can produce a competitive package.
“I’ll drive whatever Garry and Barry negotiate with Volvo and whatever we manage to put on the track I am more than comfortable it will be good enough to do the job,” Tander said.
“If you look at the results of Scott this year and the speed of that car, if we end up with a different powerplant in it I don’t think it is going to change.
“I am looking forward to winning some races.”
Whatever form his 2017 Supercar takes, Tander won’t get to drive it until a February test session. He is expecting to be engineered by Richard ‘Krusty’ Hollway, whom he knows well from the days when they both worked at Walkinshaw Racing.
“There is certainly going to be a settling in period,” Tander said. “It is a new team, new car, regardless of what it looks like.
“The way they go setting up the car will be different to what I have been used to over the last few years … but I am pretty confident I can get myself up to speed reasonably quickly and have a strong Clipsal and then build upon that as the year goes on.
“If we try and have ourselves inside the top five as a baseline championship-wise and then if everything works extremely well, be challenging for the championship.”
Tander said the prospect of providing guidance to young talent such as GRM’s Dunlop development series star James Golding appealed to him. At WR he had mentored Nick Percat for some years and the two of them memorably won the Bathurst 1000 in 2011.
“That’s something I was doing quite a bit of and it was taken away from me in the last couple of years, so I am looking forward to being able to do that.
“Obviously, there is a DVS program at GRM and there is a young bunch of young guys in the crew as well, so I am looking forward to working with the driving talent that is there but also the engineering and crew talent that is there as well.”
The invitation to become involved in the GRM business attracted Tander to the deal as well, but he played down the chances of becoming enmeshed in that side of the business while still driving full-time.
“That came as a pleasant surprise and I think I have a bit to offer in that sphere. But that is for the future,” Tander said.
“We will discuss how long I drive for in due time. Right now it is a bit open-ended and then the transition from driving into the other part of the business we will talk about that when all the parties are comfortable about it.
“For me I am walking back into an existing relationship, but with great potential for me in the future as well and I couldn’t be happier with that.”
Tander said there were no concerns about moving on from driving a Holden Commodore in Supercars for the first time in his career.
“There might be some fans that won’t agree with this, but ultimately this is a great opportunity for me as a driver and a great opportunity for me and my family in the future as far as longevity within the industry.”