Garry’s son Barry believes star driver Scott McLaughlin, steering a Volvo S60, can go one better than the team’s best Championship finish of second in the year 2000, with Garth Tander behind the wheel of a VT Commodore.
Tander, along with teammate Jason Bargwanna (now the driving standards observer) won Bathurst that year, and admits mistakes at street circuit Canberra cost GRM the title in a year he described as the team’s coming of age.
He was in contention until the final round at Mount Panorama, but finished runner-up to Mark Skaife by 137 points.
“It was certainly a lot different back then,” the 2007 champion told supercars.com.
“Prior to that it had always been Seto [Glenn Seton] and his team, HRT and Perkins – they were really the three powerhouse teams.
“We were knocking on the door in ‘99 and in 2000 we were consistently there. So that was really a coming of age, for sure – for probably the team and myself, really.”
Tander says 2000 built on the momentum they had gained during 1999, racing a VT Commodore.
“We came out pretty strong,” he said.
“We had a good Adelaide [third round], we were right up there in the points and from there on in we were always in the top four … amongst it all year.
“We had a strong Queensland 500 and then obviously Bathurst was good.
“I made a mistake in Canberra – the silly street race … looking back on it, that’s what cost us the championship. At that stage we were leading the race and it cost us quite badly.”
In the following years, the performance dropped away when Tander finished 10th, 10th and 12th in the years HRT dominated.
“We built new cars again for ‘01 … at the time we were looking to continue our development path.
“At that point we still didn’t have a full-time engineer in the organisation – we had one engineer across the two cars, Steve Cramer, who was and still is the importer for Ohlins shock absorbers, and he was engineering the cars.
“We had a good car then – we probably had a few things that were a little bit better in the damper department than what HRT had, but we felt they were catching up and they had a couple of key areas in their car that were better.
“So we were, like any other race team, making sure we weren’t sitting back on our laurels and built two new cars with the best intentions of racing them better. And we just went in the wrong direction a little bit, I guess.”
Tander finished 11th in the standings in his final year with GRM before shifting to the HSV Dealer Team, where he won his championship and then led him to HRT for 2008 and onwards.
The now HRT driver couldn’t compliment Rogers enough.
“There’s a lot that has been written about Garry’s ability to spot talent and nurture it and I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for Garry giving me the opportunity,” Tander said.
“There’s no two ways about it, he gave me a start in the series and stuck by me through some tough stuff. We obviously had a fantastic 2000 and it was great to be able to repay that…
“It’s great to see GRM where they are – we’d like to be beating them at HRT, but I certainly do have a soft spot for GRM.”
Can his former squad top the result he scored in 2000 and win the Championship this year?
“You look at the championship at the moment and it’s as wide open as it has ever been,” Tander said.
“It’s still way too early to be talking championships – but Scott has certainly shown over those last couple of years with that car and that team he’s a front runner. He probably hasn’t strung a year together as of yet through various reasons, but certainly it’s looking like this year he’s got a good car and is having a good run.
“He’s certainly going to be one of those guys battling it out if it stays the same, that’s for sure.”