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Thursday, May 30, 2024


EIGHT years after her sole Bathurst 1000 start, Leanne Tander received an unexpected phone call offering her a chance at a second.

The call led to a drive aboard Paul Cruickshank Racing’s #333 Ford Falcon BF for the Phillip Island and Bathurst enduros, where she finished 19th and 18th respectively co-driving with David Wall.

So who was on the other end of the phone call?

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None other than Supercars Hall of Famer John Bowe, whose links with sponsor Wilson Security helped open the door for Tander’s return to the ‘Great Race’.

“He asked me if I’d be interested in running in Supercars again,” Tander told the V8 Sleuth Podcast.

“John (McMellan, then-Wilson Security CEO) was keen to promote women in the sport, a lot more people were starting to understand that having a woman in the team would help lift exposure and marketing.”

“It wasn’t me searching for it, I was just fortunate that I must’ve been on JB’s radar as a driver.”

The offer was well timed, coming at a point where Tander had just rebuilt her confidence, battered during her first tilt at Supercars in 2001-02.

She campaigned a diverse array of machines in the intervening years – from a Daihatsu Sirion production car to an Improved Production Mazda RX-7 – before finding a home in Formula 3.

Tander came within an ace of becoming a two-time Australian Drivers’ Champion driving for her and husband Garth’s Tandersport operation, falling a handful of points shy of the title in both 2007 and 2008.

The program from Wilson Security also funded three wildcard development series starts at Winton (pictured here alongside PCR’s main game cars of Fabian Coulthard and Michael Patrizi), Sandown and Queensland Raceway. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Those performances earnt her the offer of a Supercars return from McMellan – an offer she didn’t have to ponder for very long.

“Because I had my confidence back I was very quick to say ‘yeah, I’d love to do something like that,’” Tander said.

“Two years earlier I’d have said ‘no, I don’t think I can do that’.

“I remember hanging up the phone and doing a little happy dance – this was something I never thought was going to happen again.”

In the podcast, Tander also answers a National Motor Racing Museum Couch Racer Question on the seating compromises involved in sharing a car with the much taller David Wall. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

Tander’s final Bathurst start marked the last time a woman raced in the ‘Great Race’ for five years, a drought that ended with Simona De Silvestro and Renee Gracie’s wildcard start in the 2015 event.

However, Tander was involved in setting another mark that day that may not be matched for a long time.

Although she and Garth both competed in the 2001 Bathurst 1000, the 2009 event marked the first time they did so while married.

While not the first married couple to be on the grid for the same race, the Tanders are the most recent to achieve the feat in Bathurst 1000 history.

The two PCR entries both adopted pink liveries for Bathurst in support of the McGrath Foundation. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

The 2009 race marked Garth’s second victory in the event, winning with Will Davison in the #2 Holden Racing Team Commodore.

While Leanne soon joined the celebrations under the podium, she was initially unaware that Garth had won the race.

“I was in the car at the finish, so I didn’t know!” she said.

The second part of Tander’s chat on the V8 Sleuth Podcast covers the years between her Bathurst starts in detail, along with her breakthrough race victory at Mount Panorama in a Touring Car Masters race a year later, plus she tackles the National Motor Racing Museum Couch Racer Questions from our social media channels and our traditional Top 10 Shootout.

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