Garth Tander says he’s felt like a ‘caged tiger’ on the sidelines in 2019, waiting for his return to Supercars action at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
The 2007 Supercars champion had been preparing for a final full-time season with Garry Rogers Motorsport this year, before his shock sacking in January.
Tander, 42, was moved aside for Richie Stanaway as part of GRM’s deal with sponsor Boost Mobile, which wanted a young driver line-up.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team quickly pounced on Tander, signing him to partner Shane van Gisbergen in the enduros before the GRM news had even been made public.
Tander is already a three-time Bathurst winner, having tasted success with GRM in 2000 and the Walkinshaw-run Holden Racing Team in 2009 and ’11.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to try to add to my success rate at Bathurst and to try to help Shane achieve his first,” he said of this year’s event.
“Having not raced Supercars all year, you sort of feel like a bit of a caged tiger, you want to get out there and get amongst it, so I'm really looking forward to getting in the car.”
Tander has kept race-fit this year driving Audis in Australian GT and TCR, and has been a frequent visitor to the Red Bull garage to integrate with the team.
He drove the #97 Commodore in each additional driver session and team test day this year, the last of which came on Monday at Ipswich.
Linking with Triple Eight was a step into enemy territory for Tander, who spent much of his career fighting head-to-head with the Roland Dane-run squad.
“For a long time I was the arch-enemy of Triple Eight and they have been so welcoming and have worked so diligently to get me involved in the team,” he said.
“That has really impressed me, and the communication within the organisation is very, very strong.
“All the race teams up and down pitlane are very good, but it's the little one-percenters that stand out amongst the really good teams and that's what this team does.
“You do 10 of them better than anyone else, you're 10 percent better than your opposition.”
Tander’s busy year has also included a regular expert comments role on Network Ten’s RPM show, working alongside another full-timer turned co-driver, Michael Caruso.
Coincidentally, Caruso had been set to partner van Gisbergen in this year’s enduros before Tander suddenly became available - a situation Tander says was never awkward.
“As soon as I knew what had happened with Michael and all the rest of it, I rang him straight away because I knew we’d be working together on RPM,” explained Tander.
“He understood it fully and we moved on from it pretty quickly. We still joke about it every now and then.
“But we’ve really enjoyed working together on RPM, taking the piss out of each other a little bit, but also trying to describe everything from a drivers’ perspective.”
Caruso will instead drive with Cameron Waters at Tickford Racing in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, having substituted for an injured Stanaway at two events earlier in the year.