Q&A: Tander on the future, joining Triple Eight

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 13/01/2019
  • By Mitchell Adam

The new year started with massive Supercars news – that Garth Tander has been replaced by Richie Stanaway at Garry Rogers Motorsport, effective immediately.

Having been preparing for his 21st season as recently as a fortnight ago, Tander's full-time career has now come to a close.

The three-time Bathurst winner and 2007 champion was due to take Craig Lowndes' mantle as the oldest and most-experienced driver this year.

Instead, his focus will be on a PIRTEK Enduro Cup campaign alongside Shane van Gisbergen at the Red Bull Holden Racing Team.

As the dust settled on Wednesday's shock news, Tander spoke to Supercars.com about his GRM exit and his decorated career – you can read Part 1 of the interview here.

In Part 2, Tander talks rivals, and looks ahead to a future including driving for long-time adversary Triple Eight.

Tander and GRM pushed Skaife and the all-conquering HRT in the 2000 title fight

A lot of drivers have left Supercars, arrived in Supercars or come and gone altogether during your career. Do you have favourites you've raced against over the years?

There's a lot, because I've raced against a lot of dudes.

I clearly remember my first ever Supercars race, I lined up on the grid and I was 16th and Dick Johnson was 15th and I thought, 'man, this is unbelievable, this is surreal'.

To race against Dick, and Larry [Perkins], Glenn Seton, Alan Jones, Tony Longhurst... I didn't get to race directly against Brock, but I was racing against Mark Skaife, Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup, Marcos Ambrose, who I raced against in go-karts, Formula Ford and Supercars.

All these guys, that's what I was saying before, I've been really fortunate to be part of the series while it's gone through this massive growth period.

I've raced against some real icons of Australian motorsport.

From a timing point of view, if you could ever time your career and have 20 years in any particular sport, this 20 years has been pretty cool.

You and Craig were in many ways the trailblazers, as young blokes coming through from the mid-1990s. Brock retired just before you started, and guys like Johnson, Jones and even Perkins all moved on in the first few years.

Yeah, that's right. I seem to follow Lowndesy around, everywhere we go. Now obviously in the other Triple Eight car!

Craig, myself, probably Jason Bright and then Todd Kelly, I guess we were the young guys that were the changing of the guard, if you like, from that owner-driver set-up that it used to be, to professional young drivers.

Now this year I was meant to be the oldest bloke after Craig retired, he held that mantle, and now we find ourselves as team-mates for the enduros.

It's strange the way things turn out.

Tander beat Lowndes and Triple Eight to Bathurst glory in 2011

On the deal with Triple Eight; from the timeframe you've outlined on the GRM split all happening in the last week, that has clearly happened really quickly as well.

It did. Roland's obviously a very shrewd operator and a very good operator.

The speed and the ease at which this deal has been done is quite astonishing, to be honest with you.

That's all happened very, very quickly, but that was only after taking my time and making the decision to walk from GRM.

Garry and I came to that conclusion mutually and amicably, but when the opportunity was laid out in front of me, that this is a possibility to go to Triple Eight, it was the easiest decision I've ever made.

Earl Bamber was saying last year that he instigated his drive with Shane through a WhatsApp message. Did you reach out to Shane or Roland as everything unfolded?

I don't have WhatsApp, I don't even know what that is! But from what I understand, Roland got a sniff of what was going on and made contact and away we went.

You've spent the bulk of your career fighting against Triple Eight and now you get to drive one of those cars and join the team.

I'm obviously really excited by that. Roland and I have talked for years, usually over a beer at the end of a year, and joked that one day I'd end up in one of his cars.

It's an around-about way of getting there, but I've got there eventually. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm looking forward to joining the team, jumping in the car; I've seen the back of the car a lot, but I've never really seen the inside of the car a whole lot!

I'm looking forward to that, whenever that opportunity arises, and meeting the team.

I obviously know Shane very well anyway, we've been team-mates in Australian GT before – not in the same car but in the same team.

Teaming up with Shane for the enduros will be fantastic, I'm looking forward to that, I think we'll be a good combo, but also sharing the garage with Jamie and Craig, I can't wait to learn as much as I can from those guys.

Roland's basically put together the ultimate all-star squad. It's probably about the strongest line-up any team's ever taken up there.

Everyone can come to their own conclusions on what level of strength our driving squad is.

I've been in the situation before where I've been in a car and a team at Bathurst where we were unbackable favourites and the race didn't last more than 100 metres (Bathurst 2006 with Skaife and HRT).

Just because you've got everything lined up and everything as prepared and organised as you can be, Bathurst is a strange place.

All I can do is try and integrate myself into the team as best I can over the next six months, before we head to the Mountain and what will be will be when we get there.

But I feel like we'll have a fast combination.

And this year has that slightly longer wait until you actually get out there in a race environment, with Sandown shuffled back to November.

Yeah. That's obviously going to be a bit different for everyone and for me, obviously my first year as a co-driver.

I think that'll work in our favour, given my experience at Bathurst, and doing the 12 Hour at the end of this month and the miles I've done up there.

That's new for everyone, the whole change of the calendar, the enduro season layout if you like, so everyone will be learning on their feet as those events take place.

Shane's last few co-drivers have been based overseas, but you're in Melbourne so it's a bit easier to get up there and work with the team and take whatever miles come up between now and then.

That's one of the benefits of this deal for Shane, that I can be there any time the car runs, any time the team wants me in the car.

For me, it's a matter of getting in the car and learning the layout, learning the intricacies of the car, making sure I'm comfortable from a driving aspect.

I think Shane and I are basically identical with our bodyshapes, so ergonomics shouldn't be too much of a drama.

I'm going to be taking every opportunity I can to integrate with the team, so that when we do get to Bathurst it's as seamless as possible.

Tander has contested select local GT races including the Bathurst 12 Hour in Audis in recent years

In terms of the rest of your 2019, the landscape has changed a lot in the last week or so. Do you look to do more GT racing, do you look to focus on other things in motorsport, or do you just take a step back and relax a bit?

To be honest, at the moment, clearly the last week has been so frantic that obviously the first priority was looking at what other enduro seats were available.

And obviously having that locked away now, it's really time to take another breath and sit back and look at what other opportunities are available.

The 12 Hour's coming up so we want to go there and do the best job possible.

We were close last year with that car and that same driving crew, so that's my immediate priority and over time I'm sure we'll look at what other opportunities are around.

Are there races overseas that you've always thought you might like to do, that suddenly you've got a bit more time to?

There are, but I've given absolutely zero thought to that right now.

There are other races, but there's another Australian bloke who's said he wants to do the same thing, called Lowndes. He's probably beaten me to all of the best drives that are available!

Realistically, I'll look at what's available after the 12 Hour, do as good of a job as we can there and that'll certainly help open some doors internationally.

It sounds like you and Craig need to buddy up and present yourselves as a package deal, and go and do Le Mans together!

Maybe. We'll see. Le Mans is hard to get to these days.

I think the Spa 24 Hours would be a fantastic race to go and do, that would be my focus if we were going to do anything internationally.

It's hard, I know through my relationship with Audi that they've got a lot of drivers on their books in Europe that they need to find seats for, so to find a seat for a guy they use once-a-year in the 12 Hour is hard.

I'll push and see what we can do, but even now it's all pretty late in the piece.

Time for a bit of a deep breath and reset in the meantime.

Absolutely. Time for a deep breath. I tell you what I've been doing the last couple of days, I've taken both of my kids to the kart track and we've been driving around the kart track.

That's been the best thing ever to take my mind off things. I'll probably do more of that sort of stuff this year.

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