Toll Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander is now the only man that can claim the $2 million V8 Supercar Grand Slam following a clean sweep in Adelaide's Clipsal 500.
The street racing event attracted a huge four-day crowd of 277,800 - the second highest attendance figure in Clipsal 500 history behind only the race's tenth anniversary year - and the audience was entertained by a second leg that had everything. Tander, however, reigned supreme as the winner of the first of four rounds counting toward the newly-introduced Grand Slam, with the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, Gold Coast SuperCarnivale and Sydney Telstra 500 to come.
Tander survived safety car chaos, fuel issues, black flags, racing incidents and, finally, rain to beat Jim Beam Racing's James Courtney and Orrcon Steel Racing's Mark Winterbottom to the chequered flag. However, a late black flag for a loose rear end panel took TeamVodafone's Jamie Whincup out of the race with just seven laps to go when he could well have been challenging Tander for the win.
That aside, Tander was saved by a safety car called for a damaged kerb with rain threatening after 58 laps. A section of the turn eight kerb broke apart, leaving a small hole and spreading chunks of concrete across the road, but it was enough to buy the leader valuable fuel savings to assure he could finish the race when only re-fuelling twice - a line ball strategy in the 250km race.
“I wasn't sure we were ever going to have a safety car there for a while,” Tander admitted, “We were out there a long time and the pace was very strong. We committed to two stops quite early and stretched the fuel window as far as we could go. When we didn't stop at the third stop, we were certainly rolling the dice.
“We hope that safety car would go a couple of laps and it went a few more than we needed. It was always going to be tight, there's not a lot of fuel left in the tank right now, but it was an amazing race and I'm sure it looked pretty good on TV.”
The safety car also gave championship leader Jamie Whincup the chance to make a 'splash and dash' pit-stop for fuel and no tyres while then leader Courtney, on a different strategy, was left out on the circuit. The race then became a race of best strategy and fuel economy.
On the second out lap, Whincup pulled a great pass on Winterbottom for second, behind Tander, as light rain began to fall just to throw yet another variable into the melting pot. The rain then cost Tander the lead on the next lap when he slid through a corner to let Whincup snatch top spot but, with his fuel getting dramatically low, Tander seized back the lead on lap 68.
Behind them, Courtney was on a huge run from fourth and reeling in the leaders. He was all over Whincup following Tander's pass and the TeamVodafone man's black flag then gave Courtney second spot.