With a break between Winton and Darwin, supercars.com is analysing the drivers’ results and performances in this first part of the season. The racing is the closest in history, with nine different winners in 11 races.
Garth Tander, Holden Racing Team Engineer: Blake Smith
Average qualifying position: 15.6 Average finishing position: 11.1 Championship position: 8th Points to leader: 275 Wins: 0 Pole positions: 0
Best result: Third in the Clipsal 500 Sunday race in the wet.
Low point: Winton Saturday; qualified 23rd and finished 25th at test track.
For: The man with the best initials in motorsport remains a towering competitive force when the green light flashes.
Guaranteed, whether he is driving the best or worst car in the field, Tander will deliver the maximum effort and best possible result.
Tander divides opinion among his fellow drivers and in the grandstands because of his forceful driving and indifference to the complaints of his rivals afterwards.
But one thing no-one can deny is that he is loyal to HRT. Through lean sometimes plainly uncompetitive times he has refused to publicly berate his team.
Considering Tander will end his career in the next few years with fewer championship and Bathurst wins than he deserves, it’s surprising that frustration hasn’t bubbled over.
Against: Tander has to be a good and hard racer because qualifying is now his Achilles heel. He hasn’t claimed a pole in the NewGen era that started in 2013 and has a best grid position of ninth (once) and 10th (twice) this year.
Poor qualifying puts Tander too far back in the pack to win races and also means the chances of contact are higher.
How much of this decline is Tander’s maturity and how much is the car he is provided with by the team is an intriguing question.
Even then the responsibility is not that clear-cut. Tander has been an integral part of shaping HRT for a decade and the cars developed over that time are a reflection of the feedback he – and other drivers – provide.
The team: A series of rebuilds over recent years has failed to return HRT to a consistently competitive position. Team boss Adrian Burgess says the Walkinshaw Racing iteration of the NewGen Commodore VF lacks the steering feel on green tyres crucial for qualifying. It also dislikes long, high-speed corners, so places like Phillip Island aren’t a happy hunting ground. On the positive side the team continues to race well, showing consistently good strategy.
Rating: C+ Great racer, but qualifying is crucial in this game.