“The biggest thing is the opposition see that number one and they see the accolades that come with winning a championship. That makes them work extra hard to try and beat you, so they've got that extra motivation. For me, it's trying to stay ahead that's twice as hard. Knowing that, being able to win at the end of this year with that challenge, is totally to the reward or what it's all about. It's twice as hard.
“Last year, I'd fight hard but the guys would give my a bit of slack here and there, and maybe let me through and I was able to have a nice, easy run to the flag. But, this year, they didn't give me an inch. They want to knock me over harder and harder.”
Tander was over the moon with his own result, which may set up next season for a possible shot at a second championship.
“I'm absolutely ecstatic with today's result, it was very special to win in Sydney first up – I did it in Hamilton last year and to do it again today and also get pole was very satisfying,” Tander said, “For us, our priority is to lock the teams' championship away. It's massive for everyone on the team – the guys that prep the car, do all the work back in the workshop, work all the late nights, do all the pit stops – it's their championship and they're the ones that deserve the title so we're very keen to win it.
“If we do that, we've won the teams' championship, finished second and third in the drivers' championship, and won Phillip Island and Bathurst – and that's not a bad year to have.”
In an exciting 84 laps, the race really spiced up once it past the quarter-distance point. It was on for young and old as tyres wore and brakes slipped with the challenging circuit getting the better of many. The drivers were completely tested and spent.
It started with Valvoline Cummins' Lee Holdsworth, who led the race and had a podium in sight until he ran into simple bad luck. He followed a bump between Paul Dumbrell and Dean Fiore into a fluid slick across the track. In seconds, he lost control and slid head first into one of the many walls, leaving his dreams of a victory - or at least a podium at the first Sydney Telstra 500 - shot. It was a great misfortune for Holdsworth who was clearly one of the best performers in the field.
As the safety car tidied up a mess from a Cameron McConville lock-up under brakes, which left his WOW Commodore in a wall, Whincup dove into the pits to lose his first position on strategy but with a long way to go still had an ace up his sleeve.
The drama continued with James Courtney, with only bad luck stopping what could have been a huge year, when his driver side door began opening. As desperately as he struggled to close it while trying to handle a one ton monster, he could not solve the problem.
Courtney was forced to pit when in second position but, although the Jim Beam team taped the door shut, it didn't hold, forcing the car back into the pits. Within laps, Courtney's Jim Beam Racing team-mate Steven Johnson brushed a wall and flattened a tyre, leaving both in the pits at the same time.
Despite his misfortune, Holdsworth hung on to claim fourth place, with Garry Rogers Motorsport team-mate Michael Caruso coming home sixth, ahead of Jason Bargwanna Steven Richards,, Rick Kelly and Shane van Gisbergen. Title contender Davison was 15th, two spots ahead of Whincup's TeamVodafone colleague Craig Lowndes.