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HomeNewsReynolds or Payne? Grove's intriguing Tander decision

Reynolds or Payne? Grove’s intriguing Tander decision

GROVE Racing is undecided about which of its primary drivers it will pair high-profile recruit Garth Tander with for the 2023 Supercars enduros.

The Ford squad faces an interesting dilemma, having significantly bolstered its roster with the shock signing of five-time Bathurst 1000 winner Garth Tander.

On one hand, slotting Tander alongside fellow Great Race winner David Reynolds would give it an all-star line-up for its #26 Penrite Mustang to head into the Sandown 500 and Repco Bathurst 1000.

On the flipside, a key element of Tander’s signing is to mentor Kiwi hotshot Matt Payne, who will take over from Lee Holdsworth in the newly numbered #19 entry.

Tander and Payne also are a better match height-wise as two of the taller drivers in the field.

Grove Racing team principal David Cauchi confirmed to V8 Sleuth this morning that no decision has been made on combinations as yet.

The team remains in the market for another co-driver, with Holdsworth moving to Walkinshaw Andretti United and Matt Campbell likely to be unavailable due to calendar clashes with his Porsche Penske Motorsport program.

Campbell has been tipped to tackle the IMSA SportsCar Championship next year, which has its penultimate round of the season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the same weekend as the Sandown 500.

That may also rule out Earl Bamber, who was originally in line to co-drive at Groves last year, given he’s set to be part of Cadillac’s 2023 IMSA campaign.

Grove Racing will run #19 and #26 Gen3 Mustangs next year. Pic: Supplied

“We’re still talking to a number of other guys to fill the remaining co-driver seat so there’s still some work to be done in that department,” Cauchi told V8 Sleuth.

“We’re still chipping away at that over the next week or so but we hope to finalise something shortly.”

Cauchi, who worked with Tander for three seasons at Triple Eight Race Engineering, reiterated how vital the 2007 Supercars champion’s presence will be at Braeside.

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“Garth is without question one of the most respected and talented drivers out there,” said Cauchi.

“I mean to be honest, he could still be a main series driver and I think be very competitive at that as well, but for us it’s great to be going into 2023 with him on our side.

“It’s also very important as a mentor and driver coach for Matt Payne as he jumps into his rookie season in Supercars.

“It’s a tough task for any driver to jump into this series, it’s unbelievably competitive so to have someone with Garth’s experience to be able to bounce ideas off and talk about whatever it might be is going to be a massive help for Matt and making sure that we’re putting our best foot forward for him.

Garth Tander with Grove Racing team principal David Cauchi. Pic: Supplied

“But just also for the broader team, also working with Reynolds and developing our Gen3 cars as we go into that whole new era.

“There’s a lot of new start-from-scratch things for next year so he is going to be a massive asset to our team.”

As for the process of luring Tander, Cauchi revealed: “We had a brief conversation and we let him know what a deal could look like and the direction we were going, explained to him what we’re trying to achieve and what sort of timeframes we’re working on.

“I think Garth was seriously excited by what we’re doing and where we want to go and how he could contribute to that.

“As a driver, he’s done it all… so I think this is a very interesting challenge for him as well to jump onboard with us as we grow into what we’re trying to become.

“And for him to be a part of that I think really excited him, and then it was over to him to make a decision.

“I’m sure he could have driven for any team that he wanted to so we’re rapt that he chose us and we look forward to having a long and successful relationship with him.”

That relationship could also include racing outside of Supercars, given the Grove’s involvement in Porsche racing both domestically and abroad.

“There are those other extra-curricular activities that the Groves get involved with and that we’ll be looking to get involved with a little bit more as a team eventually as well, but without question our focus is on Supercars and bringing the team to the front of that grid and being successful in that championship,” said Cauchi.

“But undoubtedly there will be other motorsport avenues or motorsport categories or events that we’ll be looking to compete in that Garth very well may be a part of.”

As part of the two-year deal, Tander’s son Sebastian will also join the Grove Junior Team and contest the 2023 Australian Kart Championship.

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