Defending V8 Supercar champion Garth Tander has warned his Ford-mounted title rivals not to count him out of the championship race ahead of Sunday's Coffee Club V8 Supercar Challenge on the Gold Coast.
The Toll Holden Racing Team star lost his championship lead to Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom at the recent Bathurst 1000, but reminded them that he was further behind at the same time last year before regrouping over the final four rounds - and winning at Surfers Paradise - to narrowly clinch the title.
Tander currently trails Whincup by 82 points, and Winterbottom by 49, but, with up to 1200 points still up for grabs ahead of what is usually a carnage-laden Indy carnival, Holden's leading contender pointed out the race was far from over.
“We've said all along that we would focus on the championship after
Bathurst, and that's what we're doing,” noted Tander, who had a nightmare at Mount Panorama after creeping and stalling on the grid, and then seeing team-mate Mark Skaife hit the wall, "True, we'd rather be leading coming out of Bathurst - and I'm not saying we're going to be leading after this
weekend - but we'll be looking to make some ground.”
Tander admitted that he rated his two championship rivals highly, and was looking forward to battling with them on the diverse tracks that make up the remainder of the season.
“Jamie had a good one at Bathurst, and all three of us went well at Indy last year," he noted, "The weekend's going to be a cracker, I reckon.”
Team-mate Skaife said the unforgiving Indy layout had been kind to both the Holden teams, which have won five out of seven championship rounds run there, and HRT, which last won there in 2006.
“It has been a happy hunting ground for Holden over the years, and we've had good speed there,” the veteran said, “Last year, I had a drama in practice with another car, which basically put us out for the weekend, and that definitely knocked us about, but Garth won last time, so we'll put our heads down and see what we can do.”
Tander said the keys to winning the round were staying out of trouble and qualifying well - in that order.
“Qualifying is important – Indy and Tassie are probably the two most critical ones all year – but staying out of trouble is the key, along with staying up the front, because there's less grief up there,” he explained, “You can get yourself up the front with strategy, but you need to be coming from no further back than fifth or sixth. If you're coming from any further back than that, it's going to be a long weekend.”
Skaife said he would work closely with his team-mate to maximise Tander's championship chances, and warned that the HRT team had some go-fast gear up its sleeve.
“Between us, in terms of tuning the car, we need to be working as closely as we can to come up with the best package,” Skaife acknowledged, “The cars are pretty similar, with a couple of things we're thinking about trying, so we'll get a good guide of some of the tuning parts and, hopefully, we can make up a bit of ground.”