Garth Tander believes Rick Kelly made the right call to spearhead his family’s Supercars team on-track even if it came at the cost of top-notch results.
Kelly and Tander were teammates at the HSV Dealer Team from 2005-07, each picking up a championship during that time.
“When Rick and I were teammates for those three years, that was probably the best and most productive teammate relationship that I was a part of in my career,” Tander told Supercars.com.
“We were super determined to beat each other, as all teammates are, but we were genuinely working our backsides off to improve the team at the same time so that required us to work together very, very closely.
“We were both genuinely happy for each other when each other had success.”
Kelly stayed on in ’08 as Tander moved to the sister Holden Racing Team outfit before Kelly Racing was established in 2009.
There, the Mildura product added four more race wins to his record but never again seriously threatened for a second title or third Bathurst 1000 triumph before announcing his sudden retirement last month.
Despite a sense of what could have been had Kelly remained at a powerhouse team, Tander believes it was the right move to join brother Todd as part of the foundation Kelly Racing core.
“To be in an organisation that’s your own family – both he and Todd are very close obviously and have been forever – that opportunity to build something that’s your own doesn’t come along every day,” said Tander.
“So I 100 percent get why you would take that opportunity and I think looking at it, I probably would have done the same if I was in his shoes.
“It’s tough because he probably sacrificed results to go be part of his own family team but I think as a result, that team right here right now is in a much stronger place because he did that.
“I think there’s no doubt that he sacrificed results in those early days and in the early Nissan days for sure but they are what they are now because he did that.
“When you’re working in your own business, I think you have to do that sometimes. Motor racing as a driver is measured in the wins and losses column but I think if you measure it in business, he made the right choice.”
Should Kelly decide to continue his Supercars career as an endurance co-driver, he’d likely attract significant interest from teams potentially including Tickford Racing.
Tander hopes to go wheel-to-wheel with him in 2021 and offered one last glowing endorsement of the 37-year-old: “He is very highly respected not only by drivers but everyone up and down pitlane.”