The Holden Racing Team will chase its seventh pre-Bathurst endurance race victory at this weekend’s Wilson Security Sandown 500, the first installment of the three-race PIRTEK Endurance Cup.
Greg Murphy was one of the men responsible for the team’s first Sandown 500 win, when he teamed up with Craig Lowndes in 1996; Murphy returns to the factory Holden team alongside James Courtney this season and believes HRT is as strong as ever.
“History shows HRT is always a contender in the enduros; this year’s results show they’re coming good at exactly the right time,” Murphy said.
“I’ve driven the new Commodore at a couple of test days and practice sessions, and the car has improved noticeably each time.”
V8 Supercars' most recent race winner, Courtney is similarly confident.
“We’ve had a string of podiums and a couple of good wins, so the team’s carrying some momentum into the season of endurance and really looking forward to Sandown,” Courtney said.
“We had a good test last week where we were able to fine tune the car – Murph and I are both really enjoying driving it.”
Tander, to be paired with Nick Percat, is yet to finish on the Sandown 500 podium but has twice won the 500km Bathurst warm-up at Phillip Island. He feels all the ingredients are in place for that form to repeat.
“We’ve had great recent success with HRT’s one-two finish at Townsville and James’ win at Winton; this is the time to be peaking,” Tander said.
“It’s the third year Nick and I have driven together so having that stability is a real advantage. Nick is so consistent; he just slots into the car and does his job.”
Percat said he was immediately comfortable in the HRT VF Commodore in testing, despite not racing V8 Supercars this year.
“I’ve had to reprogram myself to V8 racing, but when the team is going so well it gives the co-driver confidence to know the car’s right, and makes it easy for me to play my part,” Percat said.
Lowndes and Murphy delivered HRT’s first Sandown 500 victory in 1996, backing up a year later, while Mark Skaife and Todd Kelly triumphed in 2003.
HRT also won the Queensland 500 in 2000 (Lowndes/Skaife) and back-to-back Phillip Island 500s in 2008-09 (Skaife/Tander and Tander/Will Davison).
The Wilson Security Sandown 500 begins with three practice sessions on Friday; the second session is for co-drivers only.
A fourth practice session will be held on Saturday morning, followed by a 20 minute qualifying session and two 20 lap qualifying races. The first of these races will be contested by the co-driver, the second by the main driver. The finishing order of the second race will set the grid for Sunday’s 161-lap enduro.