Garth Tander has been racing Holden Commodores for 19 years and has the record for the most amount of years with the same manufacturer. We spoke with him, as featured on Celebrating Holden: a podcast special.
Read the words below, or listen to the interview at the bottom of this article.
CarAdvice: How did your association with Holden start?
Garth Tander: When I started the very beginning of my V8 Supercar career, I started with Garry Rogers Motorsport, and they were driving the Holden Commodore VS at the time in 1998, and I stayed with that team for seven years. From the VS, we moved to the VT and then VY. We moved our teams to what was the Kmart Racing Team and ended up being the HSV Dealer Team.
We continued to race there for three or four years, then moved to the factory Holden Racing Team. I stayed there for 12 years, and now I’m back to Garry Rogers Motorsport, where we are still running Commodores.
It was looking a little shaky at the end of 2016 because it looked like I may have been racing a Volvo, but they pulled out.
I’ve kept the 19-year unbroken record of driving a Holden Supercar, and I’m very fortunate to have that. I suppose in AFL terms; it’s like a one-club player.
What’s your favourite Holden road-car?
I’ve driven a lot of the Holden product over the years and got to drive some cool cars. I remember when the VT SS came out with the 5.7-litre engine; that was like Christmas. I was 23 or 24 at the time, and that wasn’t a bad company car.
One of the coolest cars I had was the CV8 Monaro. It was pre-kids, so it was just me and my wife, and we didn’t have to worry about the back seat. I enjoyed that car.
Right up until the end, HSV was producing some incredible machines. Do you think the heyday has gone for the high-performance big fuel guzzlers?
I think there will always be a market for high-performance V8s in Australia. I think of our history, and in particular, with the Holden V8, the one thing the brand has on its side, is that unbroken connection to performance and motor racing. It has been like that since the late '60s.
Although, I think the market is changing, and we’re seeing that. There probably won’t be that many high-performance V8 Holden product in the future, and I think it would be a real shame that those cars didn’t exist in the future.
What are your tips for people aspiring to be a race driver?
I think 99 per cent of the Supercar field started in go-karts and that’s where I started when I was eight-years-old. My father was a keen follower of motorsport and was involved a little bit, but not as a driver. He got my brother and me into karts because it was a family thing to do.
I played AFL as a kid as well, and I broke my arm twice before I was eight. I think my mum said karting was probably safer than football. We haven’t pushed our kids, but they’re asking for karts already.
The karts are the best place to start. It’s like anything that you do. If you want to be a test cricketer, then you'll pick up a cricket bat at age three or four and play in the backyard. If you love it and keep doing it, it becomes second-nature to you. The earlier you start, the easier it becomes.
What has been the proudest moment for you in your career?
When you sit back and look at what you’ve achieved, the championship and winning Bathurst is quite high. To be honest, I’m equally proud when I go racing with my wife, Leanne, and she’s on the racetrack and has success.
I think it’s just enjoying the competition, and knowing all the preparation that goes into it. When you look back on it on a Sunday night and reflect on what’s been achieved on the racetrack, whether it was Leanne or me driving.
We are going to see some big changes to the Supercar series over the next few years, regarding the cars being driven and the calendar. What are your thoughts on where the championship is heading?
People are scared of change, in particular moving away from the V8 engine and going to the V6 twin-turbo in 2019, but the market dictates that. It’s pointless marketing a car that isn’t in the motorsport scene. It isn’t relevant to what the majority of the sales are going to be.
I’ve been fortunate to be in the sport for 19 years, and the sport has been through a huge amount of change. I think it’s a great opportunity for the sport, and the fanbase is changing as well. To attract a younger fanbase, we need to have cars that they are aspiring to, not what their mums and dads are aspiring to.
I’m keen to be part of it as a driver in the short-term, and in the long-term, it’s staying involved in the industry. I think it’s an exciting opportunity for our sport.
Is it going to feel strange racing a V6 Supercar, as opposed to the V8 you’ve been so familiar with?
At the end of the day, as long as it makes enough power, it doesn’t matter! I’ve spoken to a few of the guys that have driven that engine already, and they say the power delivery is very similar to what the V8 is.
Although the engine architecture is very different, they said from a response point of view and the power delivery, you couldn’t tell the difference. It’s just going to sound different on the outside.
I haven’t heard the car live on the track, but apparently, they’re running the car at Bathurst, so no doubt there will be a lot of people sticking their head out of garages when it goes past doing demonstration laps. I’ve driven a V8 Supercar for so long, so something different will be really exciting.
Holden won its first race 48 years ago with a V8, and even though that engine will no longer roar around the Australasian race circuits from 2019, Holden will still hold a place in fans hearts as they cheer on their favourite driver to the finish line.
Listen to the interview with Garth Tander below, and hear more like this at caradvice.com/podcast