If there’s a man with a point to prove in the 2017 Supercars season, it’s Garth Tander.
Tander has had a largely successful career, but there’s a part of his resume that just doesn’t add up. One championship since he made his debut in 1998 almost doesn’t seem fair.
That’s motor racing, though. It’s brutal at the best of times and no one will know that more than Tander, who has been to the pinnacle of the sport but never quite eclipsed a status of good but not brilliant.
One championship, despite finishing on the podium 145 times across his career and picking up 54 race wins. On top of his series victory in 2007, Tander has three further finishes in the top three as well as another four in the top five.
It’s not a bad strike rate really. Eight top-five finishes and a bunch more just missing in an 18-season career so far.
Despite that, Tander has it all on the line in 2017 after coming close to missing out on a full-time drive. Racing with the Holden Racing Team (now Walkinshaw Racing) since 2008, he never saw the success of 2007 again but was always consistent at the top of the field and took out two Bathurst 1000s in his tenure there.
Despite all that, he was sensationally told to pack his bags and not return in 2017 in the lead up to the biggest race on the Australian motorsport calendar last season. It took a while, but finally, Garry Rogers Motorsport – who he raced with from 1998 to 2004 – came to the party.
With a full-time drive locked down, and racing for a team who not only gave him his big break into the main game but have just saved his career from the scrap heap, he has plenty to prove to his old employer, his new one and everyone with a passing interest in the sport.
The controversy surrounding his departure from the former Holden factory-backed team had Supercars fans up in arms, and he almost came through with a stunning Bathurst win on the same weekend, if not for the big crash with just a matter of laps to go.
But it’s more than Bathurst for Tander. He finished ninth in the 2016 championship, and while many fans don’t agree, it may have been the best way for Walkinshaw to go, even if the handling of it was a complete farce.
Consistency has been the biggest issue for Tander. Whether through car reliability, poor driving decisions or simply not having the pace to go with Triple Eight and Prodrive, he has never truly fulfilled his potential which should have seen him win multiple championships and be the series biggest star.
Incredibly, his only victory during the 2016 season was at Sandown, where he dominated with Warren Luff to put themselves on the top step of the podium.
It made his sacking from the Holden Racing Team all the more baffling, but in truth, the decision was probably made well before Sandown.
Replaced by Scott Pye for the 2017 season, the first step for Tander will be to get his Garry Rogers car firing and get the better of the youngster who hasn’t had the flashiest results himself in recent years.
The next step for Tander will be to get the better of James Courtney, his former teammate who hasn’t had the best of times either but will remain in the red and white for the season ahead.
There is talk that Tander has ‘lost his touch’, and looking at results since he won the Championship in 2007, it’s difficult to mount a case against that line of thought for the 39-year-old.
What we can’t question is that Tander is one of the most established veterans in the field, and he won’t lay down to accept a fate of anything less than a championship in 2017.
Suggesting he might win the championship is probably a little way off the mark, but he has personal battles to win and a massive point to prove in 2017.
Don’t be surprised if the man known as GT sneaks into the top five.