Garth Tander has resigned himself to having to hand his V8 Supercar crown to one of his rivals - most likely Jamie Whincup - for 2009 after failing to do enough to prevent himself from slipping out of title contention in Tasmania.
The Toll Holden Racing driver rebounded from a disastrous opening race in the Falken Tasmania Challenge triple-header to finish eighth overall for the round but, at the same time, conceded the 2008 championship to Ford rival Whincup, who won two of the weekend's three races for Triple Eight-run TeamVodafone.
After finishing Saturday's dramatic opener in 20th position, Tander moved to eighth in race two, then finished the final 50-lap contest in fifth place, showing both excellent speed in the #1 Toll HRT Commodore and what might have been had he not erred first time out. Whincup, meanwhile, won the round - his fourth win in a row - and now leads Tander by 420 points with a maximum of 300 available at the season finale at Oran Park Raceway in two weeks time.
With Tander mathematically ruled out of winning back-to-back titles, only second-placed Mark Winterbottom has a chance - and a very slim one at that - of denying Whincup the crown.
“Today was a good fightback from my mistakes yesterday, which put us behind the eight ball, but the championship's over [for us] now," Tander conceded, "We were hanging on by our fingernails coming into this round anyway, so good luck to Jamie.
"In race two, the Toll HRT Commodore was very good and, in the first stint in the third race, it was fast, so we had a good car most of the weekend. We'll just go to Oran Park now and enjoy the round for what it is, try put on a really good show and end the year on a positive note.”
Team-mate Mark Skaife's run of bad luck continued in race two when the engine in the #2 Toll HRT Commodore overheated, dropping him to 24th and requiring an engine change prior to the final race. Starting from the rear of grid in his last ever race at Symmons Plains, the soon-to-retire veteran drove a terrific race on the tight 2.4km circuit, passing 14 cars on his way to 15th, but finished 23rd overall for the round.