Can Tander trump Red Bull again?
Photo Source: AAP
Can Tander get another one over Red Bull?
It's been a busy and emotional few weeks for Supercars veteran Garth Tander. First Holden announced that from 2017 they would only support Triple Eight Race Engineering, taking the Holden Racing Team away from Walkinshaw Racing. Then Tander and Warren Luff won the Sandown 500 for his first race win since July 2014 and first endurance victory since Bathurst 2011.
Days later, Walkinshaw – now preparing for life without factory backing for the first time in what is essentially 30 years – announced they would not renew Tander's contract beyond the 2016 season. While it's unlikely that Tander needs to feel as if he is now driving to save his career, he will be determined to make the most of the Bathurst 1000 and the season's remaining races. But does he have it in him to overhaul Shane van Gisbergen, Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes over 161 laps around Mount Panorama?
If Sandown qualifying and the early part of the race are any indication, Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell will be tough to beat but – as ever – it will come down to luck and race management for them to be there at the end. There has been a suggestion that Whincup's tank would have been empty towards the end of Sandown had he been in a race-winning position, which throws back to Bathurst 2014 when, running on fumes, he coughed up his lead in the last kilometres. Both drivers will be on alert and shouldn't make errors this time round, making the job even tougher for Tander. The car has been getting faster but taking out two consecutive enduros will be a stretch.
Could Winterbottom revive his season?
It has been three months since Mark Winterbottom finished on the podium, and though the 2015 Supercars champion finished fourth and fifth at Queensland Raceway in August his poor results in Sydney and at Sandown have seen him drop down to fifth in the standings. "We may as well peel it off," Winterbottom said of his No.1 after Sandown. "We're nowhere now. We'll try and win Bathurst, try and win the next ones and push on – but we need a quick car, the car’s inconsistent. Today it was good and we wasted it ... we could’ve won that race."
Winterbottom's jump from being "nowhere" because of an "inconsistent" car to claiming they could've won belies the problems they had across the weekend – and he later said they "lucked into a few things" on the Sunday. While it's true that 'Frosty' can kiss his championship hopes goodbye, third place is still up for grabs if everything falls in his favour at Bathurst. Lowndes is only 183 points ahead, with Scott McLaughlin (81 points ahead of Winterbottom) tucked in between. It would be a surprise to see 'Frosty' and co-driver Dean Canto pushing for top honours this weekend, but a top-five finish is not beyond them and would make for a solid race. It might be out of their hands to make it a happy one.
Will there be a surprise packet?
Tander's Sandown win wasn't the only shock result of that weekend as Will Davison turned around some average recent finishes with an outstanding podium alongside co-driver Jonathon Webb. He was lucky to make his way over the line in third, too, given the exhaust problems they had towards the end. Davison and Webb might well do it again if their Tekno Commodore allows it, though we are leaning towards a better result for the likes of James Courtney, Michael Caruso or Tim Slade.
Who will take out the Great Race? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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