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Tander completes HRT Sandown sweep

2 August 2009


Toll Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander claims that his outfit will continue as the leading 'Red Army' team after making a bold statement at its home track in the Norton 360 Sandown Challenge.

The 2007 V8 Supercar champion said he and team-mate Will Davison had proven that, despite the controversial switch of TeamVodafone to Holden in 2010, that his team would still make the running for the manufacturer.

Tander and Davison finished 1-2 in the feature race at Sandown, a day after the youngster had sealed a race win on Saturday and followed it up with a second Armor All Pole Position in as many days. That performance led Tander to respond to a question about the future position of HRT in V8 Supercars with a very direct answer.

“HRT has been the number one Holden team for the last couple of years and it will continue to be the number one Holden team going forward,” he said.

On the weekend that Holden announced its factory backing for another three years, and with Holden bosses Mark Ruess and incoming replacement Alan Batey at the event, it was a fitting payback by Tander and Davison.

Both Tander and Davison also firmly believe they can beat TeamVodafone's Jamie Whincup, who was third in race two, to this year's championship. Both drivers made up good ground on the points leader this weekend.

The Norton 360 event became a battle of strategy and tyres, as Tander got full advantage out of his softer Dunlop Sport Maxx Sprint tyres while Davison battled through on regulation Dunlops for a great result.

“Second was the absolute perfect race for me,” Davison admitted, “We had no soft tyres, had to fight pretty hard and lost out a little bit with a safety car. It was all going on there for a while.”

Whincup salvaged his weekend despite an uncharacteristic stumble in qualifying. Unfortunately, it was a day of backwards at the start for the reigning champion, who struggled in the mix of hard and soft tyres. He was lucky at one point to be on the track when he got completely swamped by half a dozen cars and shuffled back to eleventh. It undid a great starting line effort to make up several places from ninth, as he got mixed up in a front pack battle for places but was shuffled out of position along the way.

“We did it tough,” Whincup said. “We haven't quite been on our game all weekend. It has been a huge week for the team [with the switch to Holden finally announced] and, to move forward in the long term, there were always going to be a few interruptions in the short term. But, in this environment, operating at 99 per cent means you are back in the pack.

“We will spend the next three weeks regrouping and putting all our effort into the remainder of this year's championship, especially as the endurance events are just around the corner.”

At the front, Davison cleared out to leave a battle of the bourbons between Jim Beam Racing's James Courtney and Jack Daniel's Racing's Rick Kelly in second and third. On the sprint tyres, Kelly worked his way into second by passing Courtney on the main straight on lap four, but then got caught out by a safety car.

“You can't judge when the safety cars are going to come out and, unfortunately, there was one at the wrong time for our strategy and we had to put the softs on too early,” Kelly said, “It's just a bit of bad luck. We played our cards and, unfortunately, they were the wrong ones on the day. It was just bad luck, so there's not much we can do about it.”

Tander also went by Courtney while he and Kelly were on fresh sprint tyres, and the next stop for them was Davison, who had used most of his soft tyres in yesterday's victory. As soon as the safety car was gone, Kelly pounced immediately to take the lead, and Tander soon joined him after getting past Davison, who was becoming swamped by the field on the different compound tyre.

However, sheer car speed and the combination of the soft tyre ultimately prevailed for Tander, who went on to win by three tenths of a second.

Behind fourth-placed Cameron McConville - who threatened a podium finish for WOW Racing at one point - TeamVodafone's Craig Lowndes and Jason Richards, Bottle-O Racing's Tony d'Alberto achieved a career best finish of seventh, while Courtney, Jason Bargwanna and Paul Dumbrell rounded out the top ten.

"After a poor qualifying this morning, I was determined to give the guys a result for the mammoth effort to get the engine changed with only five minutes to spare before the race," McConville revealed, "It was a great strategy by the crew, and the timing was perfect for the soft tyre pit-stop. I was a little conservative on the softs early as I wanted to make sure they would last, but the car's pace was good today, and the result is a reward for the entire team's efforts."

Like Whincup, Ford Performance Racing pair Steven Richards and Mark Winterbottom struggled to find form across the weekend. Richards finished a fighting twelfth in his Castrol FPR Falcon, with Winterbottom down in 16th in his Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon. Just behind Winterbottom, Jim Beam Racing's Steven Johnson suffered from a bizarre mishap as his refuelling stop was hindered by the team finding that it had not removed the bolted down petrol cap used to reduce drag in qualifying. The pit crew had to physically tear off the cap, losing loads of valuable time in the process and restricting its man to 17th spot.


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