Tander in elite raceway club
GARTH Tander knows Queensland Raceway as well as anyone in the field as he prepares for the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint this weekend.
Tander and Craig Lowndes are the only Supercars drivers to have competed in every Championship round at Queensland Raceway since the first in 1999.
It has also been a happy venue for the Garry Rogers Motorsport driver. Back in 2007, when he was with HSV Dealer Team, Tander memorably won all three 50-lap races on his way to the second Series win of his career.
When he thinks of Queensland Raceway he remembers that year fondly, but the good memories go back further than that.
"I think back to the inaugural weekend because I think we won the round back then,” he said.
"There have been a couple of special ones. Obviously 2007 was nice, clean sweeping it.
"In 2006 we won two out of three, but the one we didn't win was a reverse grid race so I started at last and got all the way to second, so we've had some pretty good runs there that is for sure.”
The upcoming $52 million upgrade of Queensland Raceway would only be a good thing, Tander said.
"When there is an improvement in infrastructure it is good for us as drivers, but more importantly for fans and all involved,” he said.
"It is good to see that the local government sees that it is important to invest in Queensland Raceway.
"It improves the racing for drivers and also the facilities for driver training, so ultimately it is good for everyone.”
Tander, like many Supercars drivers, concedes the 'paperclip' layout as it stands is not the most imaginative that exists.
"So making it more challenging from a driving perspective is going to be a good thing,” he said.
Tander won the series in 1997 and 2007 so, on that sequence, may well have approached this year as his season.
There was the challenge of his own change of teams and of the team changing manufacturers from Volvo to Commodore in the off-season.
"But the year is going really well and I am quite happy with how we are going along,” he said.
"Every weekend we feel like we are improving the car so here's hoping we can continue that trend this weekend.
"It is a challenging weekend for us as a Victorian-based team because there are a lot of Queensland-based teams that test there, so they have a bit of a home ground advantage.
"But that hasn't stopped us in the past going up there and having a successful weekend.
"Every event you go to you feel you are in with a chance. We had a pretty solid weekend in Townsville a couple of weeks ago and we want to have another good one.”
Tander is in eight position in the Championship, 528 points behind leader Scott McLaughlin. Plenty of points are up for grabs.
"We are potentially coming to the stage of the year where we hit our stride,” he said.
"There is still plenty of water to go under the bridge, but you don't tend to talk too much Championship-wise until you get into the endurance races because they can change the outcome drastically.
"You look at Bathurst and there are 300 points on offer just for one race. Have a good one there when the opposition has a bad one you can swing the Championship quickly.”
Tander has won Bathurst three times in 2000, 2009 and 2011.
"The first one has a special place in your heart,” he said.
"I was 23 at the time and it was the first time I had finished the race. I remember thinking naively that all you had to do was finish the race to be somewhere near the front.
"But it took another nine years to figure out it wasn't as easy as I thought. The win in 2011 with Nick Percat was pretty special because no-one gave us much of a chance.”
Tickets for the Ipswich SuperSprint are on sale through Ticketek on 132 849, via www.ticketek.com or at any Ticketek agency.