Garth Tander took his first V8 Supercar Championship after 7 years of trying in front of a record crowd at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit in country Victoria.
The lanky West Australian had to wait until the final race of the season before he could claim victory, after his nemises for the final rounds of the season Jamie Whincup failed to win any of the three races over the weekend.
Tander and Whincup have been battling it out for the past two rounds (Desert 400 in Bahrain and Falken Tasmania Challenge) with both drivers having had the opportunity of staking their claim for the title, but that wasn't to be. Whincup and his team mate Craig Lowndes were casualties during the first race in Bahrain and both started from the back of the field. Lowndes was able to recover to win the final race while Whincup returned to Australia pointless.
Tander, on the back of two race wins on the Gold Coast looked set to take the advantage after placing well in the first race, but everything went pear shaped after that when he and team mate Kelly came together in race two. After the race both drivers went into a team de-briefing, and as expected they had "sorted their differences".
Tander lead Whincup heading to Tasmania for round 13, however, his crash in race 3 cost him valuable points. On the other hand Whincup took the round win and took the lead going to Phillip Island. In the end that didn't matter.
This weekend the Toll/HSV Commodore of Tander was dialled in over the three race format, whereas the Team Vodafone Fords of Whincup and Lowndes were slightly off the pace, unusual, considering they were gaining momentum towards the back half of the season with big wins in the enduro races at Sandown and Bathurst.
Although there were protests last year following the Kelly/Lowndes incident, nothing eventuated as was suggested by the pundits, claiming that "tempers" had been simmering for the past 12 months. All four drivers from the two opposing teams played by the rules as expected. Rick Kelly was out of contention after race 1, leaving a three way battle, with Lowndes having the slightest of chances.
Realistically, it was a two horse power race between Tander and Whincup with Tander taking the series by only 2 points in the end. Both drivers paid each other compliments at the press conference and Whincup conceded that he had his chances and was looking forward to season 2008.
Tander's win adds another trophy to the cabinet of the Toll/HSV team, who have back to back Championships. The big question on everyone's lips is whether he will retain the No. 1 or his trade mark No. 16, as talk is that he may be moving to the sister Holden Racing Team next year to partner Mark Skaife and that both Kelly brothers may join forces at the team owned by their parents.