Holden hero Garth Tander joins an elite club of Australian touring car greats when he notches up his 200th V8 Supercars event start at his home-town race in Perth this weekend.
Tander becomes just the eighth driver to reach the milestone when he lines up in his Holden Racing Team Commodore for the Chill Perth 360 at Barbagallo Raceway.
The select '200 club' is comprised of champions John Bowe, Russell Ingall, Mark Skaife, Peter Brock, Glenn Seton, Craig Lowndes and Dick Johnson, with just Ingall and Lowndes still actively racing V8s.
“To be honest, I didn’t realise it was my 200th start until the team mentioned it to me last week,” Tander said.
“It’s hard to believe it’s come up this fast – I can remember my first event at Phillip Island like it was yesterday.
“It’s an amazing coincidence that such a special occasion falls during my home event. It would be really great to celebrate it by winning some races in front of my family and friends, who have supported me from the very beginning.”
After winning the 1997 Australian Formula Ford Championship, beating Marcos Ambrose and Todd Kelly to the title, Tander found himself in the wilderness the following year.
His career was kick-started when Holden team owner Garry Rogers signed him to replace Steven Richards, who left for a career in Europe.
Tander made his V8 debut with GRM at the fourth round of the season at Phillip Island, finishing 15th overall.
Since then, Tander has gone on to amass a record that ranks him as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
He has contested 449 Championship races and won 50 races, fourth on the all-time wins list behind Skaife, Lowndes and Jamie Whincup, and earned 29 pole positions – the sixth highest total.
Tander’s career is highlighted by three victories in Australia’s Great Race, the Bathurst 1000 (2000, 2009 and 2011) and the 2007 V8 Supercars Championship.
While the V8 title and Bathurst crowns are understandable standouts, the proud West Australian considers his clean sweep of the 2007 Barbagallo event amongst his finest achievements.
“The ’07 weekend was one of the absolute highlights of my career, right up there with winning Bathurst,” Tander said.
“I know my way around Barbagallo better than any other circuit and I’d been trying to win there in V8s for almost 10 years, but it just never happened.
“To finally do it, and in the style we did was just awesome, something I’ll never forget.”
A string of podium finishes at the recent Symmons Plains and Pukekohe events has Tander confident his HRT VF Commodore will again be on the pace for this weekend’s fourth round.
“We were on pole at Barbagallo last year and we’re carrying momentum into the event after some solid form recently, so I’m confident of a good weekend,” he said.
The meeting sees the return of the 60/60 Super Sprint format for Saturday’s race, followed by two 100km races on Sunday.
All races will be run on the soft compound Dunlop control tyres, and Tander is predicting high degradation on the abrasive tarmac.
“Because of the sand and rough surface, tyre wear is a lot higher at Barbagallo than the other tracks we’ve raced at this year, so strategy will be paramount,” Tander said.
The circuit received several important upgrades for last year’s V8 event, including a brand new pit complex. After experiencing the new facilities, Tander agrees they were worthwhile.
“The new pit building is fantastic and it was well overdue; Barbagallo is the only permanent racetrack in Western Australia so it needs to be maintained properly.”
Tander and his HRT teammate James Courtney will take part in two Practice sessions on Friday, followed by Qualifying and racing on Saturday and Sunday at the Chill Perth 360.