In his final outing at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 for the Holden Racing Team, Garth Tander will contest the ARMOR ALL Shootout for the first time since 2012.
Tander set ninth fastest qualifying time yesterday afternoon in the Holden Commodore VF he will share in the 161 lap classic with Warren Luff, guaranteeing himself a place in the nationally televised single lap dash this afternoon.
Tander qualified only 22nd in 2015, was ninth fastest in 2014 but his car was wrecked in a Saturday morning practice crash and withdrawn from the race. In 2013 he was 11th.
Tander’s good qualifying form at Bathurst this weekend follows on from victory in the opening round of the Pirtek Enduro Cup, the Wilson Security Sandown 500.
But on the Thursday after that race Tander was officially told by Walkinshaw Racing owner Ryan Walkinshaw that his contract with the organisation would not be renewed at the end of this season.
Tander, 39, has raced for WR for 12 years and HRT for nine years. At the time of the split he expressed his disappointment at the decision and his determination to continue racing in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship full-time.
Yesterday he insisted the split had not impacted on his attitude towards his racing or the atmosphere within the team, which also loses its Holden backing and the HRT title in 2017.
“I am just getting on with the job,” said Tander.
“There is a big race to win this weekend, then there is the Gold Coast and that is another big race.
“Then we will just try and finish off the year as best we can.”
A News Limited report quoting Walkinshaw suggesting Tander could find added motivation because of the split was shrugged off by the three-time Bathurst 1000 winner.
“That’s up to Ryan … that doesn’t make any difference,” said Tander.
Tander revealed he had been confident enough of making his first shootout in five years that he had been rehearsing single flying lap runs at the start of every session this week.
“I think I have been fastest after the first lap of every session, not that it necessarily means anything.” Tander said. “I was practicing it because I was definitely intending to be part of it.
“I am looking forward to it,” he added. “It is the shootout lap of the year and the best shootout lap.
“But at the end of the day it is just another lap.
“I have probably got a few miles on the clock to understand what it all means.
“I am going into it with not a lot to lose to be honest, because I am ninth and the worst we can do is stay on the same row.
“I do a good job, we can jump a couple.”
Bathurst is Tander’s third outing in a new Commodore that has shown instant tuning improvement over his old mount, which was the car rebuilt from Luff’s 2014 Bathurst crash.
After a strong Thursday Tander admitted the team had veered off course on set-up yesterday and the car was still not quite right.
But he got it back closer to the window than team-mate James Courtney, who could qualify only 16th fastest.
“We really only found our way again in the second half of qualifying and that hurt us in terms of ultimate speed.
“I was pretty confident we were going to be in the 10 all along, but this morning probably made it a bit more difficult than I would have liked.
“We are not all the way there, but we are headed in the right direction and we will tune it up for tomorrow.”
While racing forward from the midfield into podium contention has become something of a Tander specialty at Bathurst, he said qualifying up-front would help on Sunday.
“It doesn’t really mean a lot but it makes the first stint a lot easier and gives you a lot more strategy options the closer to the front you are,” Tander said.
“And it’s a big race and you want to start from the front.”
And he made it clear that while the top 10 was important, the main objective was a strong race performance.
“We will put some energy into the shootout but we have an hour practice session in the morning and realistically 55 minutes of that is going to be tuning the car as a race car.
“We have a good car and a strong car, but there are lots of fast cars and lots of strong co-driver combinations so there is going to be a lot of pressure on during the race and that is going to add a different aspect to it.”