Reigning V8 Supercar champion Garth Tander has moved to reassure Toll Holden Racing Team fans that his title defence remains on track despite a troubled run at the recent Sandown sprint round.
Tander conceded the championship lead after finishing seventh for the meeting but, approaching this weekend's sixth round at Darwin's Hidden Valley Raceway, trails Ford driver Mark Winterbottom by just 52 points, with 300 points up for grabs across the three sprint races to be contested.
“The championship is a long way from over, there's a lot of racing to happen between now and December,” Tander said, insisting that the Sandown result was a minor blip in a season still short of its halfway point, “The last two years, it's come down to the last race of the season and this year's going to be no different.”
Tander and team-mate Mark Skaife had difficulty finding the right set-up at Sandown in damp, constantly changing, conditions, but anticipate no such problems at Hidden Valley, where Toll HRT has won four V8 Supercar rounds in the hot, sunny conditions for which the round is famous.
“I've always enjoyed the race in Darwin, always enjoyed the circuit and the challenge,” Tander said, “It's obviously in a fairly different climate to what we experience during the rest of the season, so we always look forward to the trip.”
Skaife, who has won two of those rounds, almost added to his Hidden Valley tally last year, getting the weekend off to a flying start with victory in the first race, and expects to be fully recovered from a bout of the 'flu by the time he steps off the plane this week.
“I could quite possibly have had another round win up there, but for the bump that Todd [Kelly] and I had at the start of race two,” he said, having recovered to finish third for the weekend.
Tander said he was reassured by his team's strong record at Hidden Valley, but was not counting on it to secure victory and wrest back the championship lead.
“Toll HRT's record is second to none there, but everyone's very competitive at the moment and what you've achieved in the past doesn't really mean you're going to repeat it in the present,” he said, “We are prepared as we can be and we're intent on having a strong weekend after what transpired at Sandown, but we're not relying on what's been achieved in the past. It's all about today.”