The shock news on Wednesday that Garth Tander will not be driving for the Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden team in 2019 will bring to a close his full-time career in the Supercars category.
It was an announcement that no one expected but more surprise news was to follow with team principal Garry Rogers announcing that Ritchie Stanaway from New Zealand would replace Tander.
Tander had been with GRM for two years and was expected to line up for 2019 for what he had previously indicated would probably be his last as a full-time driver in the championship.
While Tander was contemplating his future the silver lining to the GRM announcement came almost immediately with the Red Bull Holden Race team confirming that Tander would be Shane Van Gisbergen’s co-driver for the three endurance races.
This will be a formidable combination and with Craig Lowndes already announced as co-driver with Jamie Whincup, team principal Roland Dane must be thinking Christmas has come again.
The choice of 27-year-old Stanaway is obviously tied to GRM’s new naming rights sponsor, Boost Mobile who previously had been with the Walkinshaw, Andretti, United Holden team.
GRM had lost their major sponsor at the end of 2018 with Wilson Security ceasing all motor sport funding across the board affecting a number of teams.
Australian Peter Adderton is one of three directors of Boost Mobile which is based in America and was established in 2000.
Adderton has been a long-time supporter of motor sport and has previously indicated that he wanted to have greater involvement in Supercars especially with a two-car team.
Rogers is now in his 70s and while his son Barry has taken on a significant role in the running of the team, I can only wonder if Adderton is looking to take ownership at some point in the future.
Stanaway drove for the Tickford Ford team in the endurance races in 2017 winning the Sandown 500 with Cam Waters and earned widespread praise for his drive in wet conditions.
Tander had been with GRM for two years and was expected to line up for 2019 ...
The former Aston Martin works sports car driver was then signed by Tickford to drive their fourth car in the championship, but 2018 proved to be an absolute disaster with Stanaway finishing 25th and second last.
As the season progressed he became more and more frustrated with the lack of performance from the car and clearly was over-driving much to the annoyance of the team.
It all came to a head when he publicly stated that “there will need to be major changes in the team for me to continue” which didn’t go down at all well, and so it was no surprise they parted ways one year early.
He now has the chance to redeem himself with this lifeline, but it is going to be very difficult to prove to the fans and his peers that he deserves to be in the championship.
His team mate will be 22-year-old James Golding who will be starting his second year as a full-time driver in the championship having previously impressed in the second-tier Dunlop Super 2 series.
The fact that both drivers have limited experience in the main game championship is an added pressure so it’s hoped the brains trust in the team can come up with competitive cars.
For the 41-year-old Tander it’s a sad way to end his almost-21-year full-time career in Supercars that ironically began part through 1998 with GRM so he has come full circle.
From 1998 to 2004 the 1997 Australian Formula Ford champion drove for GRM and his most significant success was giving the team their only Bathurst 1000 win in 2000 with Jason Bargwanna.
In 2002 GRM entered a 7.0 litre Holden Monaro in the inaugural Bathurst 24-hour race with Tander, Steven Richards, Cameron McConville and Nathan Pretty winning and then finishing second in 2003.
Tander then joined the Holden Special Vehicles dealer team and won the championship in 2007 before stepping across to the official works-backed Holden Race Team at the start of 2008.
During his nine years with HRT he finished third in the championship in 2008 and 2009 plus seven other top ten championship results and he won the Bathurst 1000 in 2009 and 2011.
However, 2016 was a disaster with Tander and the team unable to get on top of handling issues and at the end of the year, he was unceremoniously dumped in favour of Scott Pye.
The championship’s smallest multi-car team, GRM has punched above its weight on a limited budget but despite his undoubted skill, Tander finished 9th in 2017 and 13th last year in the championship.
Over the 21 years Tander competed in 617 championship races, scoring 54 wins, 149 podiums and 30 pole positions.
The oldest drivers now in the field are 2010 champion James Courtney at 38 and Jamie Whincup 37.