Garth Tander’s full focus is on this week’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 despite the shock news he will not continue on with Walkinshaw Racing in 2017.
After winning the Wilson Security Sandown 500 with co-driver Warren Luff, the 39-year old racer – who was the 2007 Supercars champion and is a three-time Bathurst 1000 winner – would like nothing better than to take his second win of the year, at Mount Panorama in what will be his last season as a full-time factory Holden driver.
He is the brand’s most capped driver with 54 wins to his name and broke a two-year drought with the nail-biting Sandown victory last month.
Last year he and Luff won the Pirtek Enduro Cup – with third place at Bathurst contributing important points – and they are on track to defend the prestigious award in 2016.
“News of the last week, that I won’t be staying at Walkinshaw Racing for next year is disappointing and probably not the best preparation going into the biggest race of the year, but certainly as an athlete when you pull your helmet on, the last thing you’re thinking about is that,” Tander said.
“You’re focused on driving the race car as best you can and certainly focused on having success at Bathurst so parking all that to one side and focus on this race.
“There’d be nothing better than winning this race – it’s the tenth year [since] Peter Brock’s passing and to win it in the HRT Commodore would be fantastic.”
Tander’s most recent Bathurst victory was in 2011 with Nick Percat, adding to his 2009 and 2000 wins at Mount Panorama. Two years ago he experienced the ultimate Bathurst pain, unable to contest the race at all after co-driver Luff was involved in a significant accident during practice, which damaged the car so badly they could not take the start on Sunday.
“It’s an amazing place that can create the highest of high but also the lowest of lows,” he said.
“Preparation is key, you need a fast car, a great co driver – we have that with Warren Luff, we’re sharing a car again this year.
“You need everything going for you. I’ve been there other years – you’ve had a fantastic team, really fast car and if you don’t have that last little bit of luck it can really bite you.”
They say you are only as good as your last race – a promising omen for Tander this time around.
“Having success at the Sandown 500 with Warren Luff in the preceding race … the best form to take into the biggest race of the year is winning form and that’s what we have.
“I’m really looking forward to Bathurst, I think we have the car that’s capable of getting the job done.”
Celebrations commemorate 10 years since Brock’s passing – just another reason victory this time around would be sweet.
“When you think about Peter Brock you think about Holden, Bathurst and you think about winning,” he said.
Tander sits eighth in the championship after his 300-point payday at Sandown.
The Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 kicks off on Thursday, with Sunday race day.