Toll Holden Racing Team's former V8 Supercar champion Garth Tander is well and truly back after becoming the first man to beat Jamie Whincup in 2010 and taking his first Clipsal 500 win to end what had been a miserable start to a new season.
Tander led the Red Army to an emphatic victory on a dramatic day, in which Whincup's TeamVodafone squad made an uncharacteristic tyre error that cost him a chance of victory, and Jim Beam Racing's James Courtney again proved a street track specialist.
The second of the renowned street circuit experts, Fujitsu Racing's Lee Holdsworth, was third after a daring run of strategy and cunning from his team. Whincup held on for fourth despite his team forgetting to change front tyres at his last pit-stop amongst a frenzy of late safety car confusion.
In front of a huge Saturday crowd of 79,100, Tander reigned supreme and was virtually untouchable across more than two hours of intense racing in difficult conditions, bringing the Toll HRT team back to the winner's circle after returning from the Middle East with just a handful of points.
“We are just a couple of race teams struggling to do the best we can,” Tander said of his Walkinshaw Racing outfit after the horrendous results in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, “It's important for the guys in the garage to understand that they know what they are doing, that they are still a force to be reckoned with and that nothing has changed from the core group of people that won the teams' championship last year.
“From a championship point of view, we know we have a long battle on, and it will be a long way until we are in the mix. Results like that will keep the momentum going and the motivation high.”
Courtney, who won the last race of 2009 at the Sydney Telstra 500 but was unable to convert that form fully in the Middle East, battled low fuel towards the end but now has a car he is becoming happy with.
“We did all our testing in qualifying, where I wasn't happy, so we went another way and it turned into a jet for a while there," he noted, "We just need to make it better again for tomorrow. This year is all about this year finishing as high as we can with the car we have got and not pushing it too hard. To get this result will pick everyone up and get ready for tomorrow. It's good for team morale.”
Holdsworth persisted with a conservative start strategy in order to be strong at the end and, like the men ahead of him, was happy with his result.