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Tander questions Supercars co-driver rule change

FIVE-TIME Bathurst 1000 winner Garth Tander has criticised Supercars’ move to ban co-drivers from starting races.

A new-for-2024 rule change will force teams to put their primary driver in the cockpit for the opening stint of the Sandown 500 and Repco Bathurst 1000.

Somewhat justified as ensuring the stars of the show are in action when all eyes are on race start, the concept has been condemned by drivers and teams for dulling strategic flexibility that previously has been available.

Now, Grove Racing co-driver and Supercars broadcaster Tander has become the latest to take a stance.

“I’m a massive sports fan, I like watching a lot of other sport,” Tander began, talking on the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Castrol.

“The ICC (International Cricket Council), prior to the Ashes, don’t dictate to England or Australia what the batting order is going to be, nor do they dictate who is going to bowl first, as in within the team.

“The NBA don’t dictate to the Chicago Bulls who the starting five are; the team makes that decision.

“So why Supercars in an age of our game where there’s a lot of criticism that the racing is follow-the-leader, predictable and that a lot of the strategy is copy-copy, why they would make a rule that takes out some of the flexibility that the teams have, I have no idea.

“Some are saying because of the start of Bathurst in 2022 that they needed to protect the teams from danger at the start of these races.

“Well, the rule wasn’t that you had to start your co-driver. So the teams didn’t have to start their co-driver; if they felt that it was dangerous and there was some risk involved, put your primary driver in.

“I honestly don’t get it; it doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

“People will say ‘Garth is just saying that because now he’s a co-driver’ but I’m trying to look at it from a sports fan perspective.

“Could you imagine if the ICC dictated that Steve Smith wasn’t allowed to be an opener in the Ashes at the MCG on Boxing Day? Imagine if that was a rule. Could you imagine the backlash?”

Tander instead feels a change should have been made to dump the minimum fuel drop rule, which continues to exist despite its initial introduction being as a means of neutralising fuel economy differences when Nissan, Volvo and Mercedes entered the category.

“We don’t need fuel drop anymore,” Tander declared.

“So why wouldn’t we get rid of a rule – and I work in pitlane during the refuelling races – that is insanely difficult to convey to the fans at home that are watching on TV, let alone the fans that are in the stands at the racetrack!

“So why don’t we eliminate that rule and focus our energy on getting that right, as opposed to bringing in some ticky-tack rule about whether co-drivers can start two races of the year.

“I work for Supercars in the broadcast, I understand that there’s a lot of challenges in the Supercars world, but I think sometimes we could save ourselves from a few own goals and that was one of them.”

The 2024 enduros at Sandown and Bathurst will be held in September and October, respectively.

The ‘500’ is set to shift to Tailem Bend next year.

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