Garry Rogers Motorsport’s win at Bathurst back in 2000 was a culmination of its fledgling growth in V8 Supercars and stamped its status as a front-running Holden team in the sport.
GRM’s victory in the wet at Bathurst back in 2000 completed a season where its driver Garth Tander emerged as a title contender, and stamped its status as a front-running Holden team in V8 Supercars. To get to this point, the small, close-knit squad based at the rear of team patriarch Garry Rogers’ Glen Waverley car dealership had already contested five seasons in Australia’s highest level touring car category, providing an opportunity to many young drivers along the way.
Rogers had raced a variety of racing series including sports sedans, touring cars and even AUSCAR on the Calder Park Thunderdome, and was considered a stalwart of the local racing scene. But when he stepped away from driving himself, he provided young gun Steven Richards, son of Bathurst legend Jim, an opportunity. Richards had won the 1994 Australian Formula Ford Championship; he stepped up with Rogers initially into Super Touring before adding Australian Touring Car Championship duties in 1996 as a privateer.
During its maiden season racing an ex-Gibson Motorsport Holden VR Commodore backed by Valvoline and Cummins, Richards proved to immediately be at home in the category as he became one of the leading privateers. This was highlighted by being in contention with father Jim at that year’s Bathurst 1000 until a crash dropped the pair out of the event. A runner-up finish at Bathurst with the father-and-son Richards pair provided great momentum into 1998 where it was all change on the driver front.
In what was to prove a successful partnership and arguably the most successful in GRM’s history, ex-Holden Young Lions member Jason Bargwanna filled the seat of Richards as the team later expanded to two entries for reigning Australian Formula Ford Champion Garth Tander mid-season. The momentum demonstrated at Bathurst the previous season proved to carry through, as Bargwanna secured the team’s first race win at Calder Park and another Bathurst podium continued its upwards ascendency. If the opposition weren’t on notice already, then Tander’s round victory at the category’s first trip to Queensland Raceway sure did.
Another progression for the team occurred in 1999 when GRM decided to build its own brand-new VT Commodores, coinciding with Repco joining the team as a supporter. Bargwanna led development and he was duly rewarded with a round clean-sweep at Winton. A runner-up position for Bargwanna and Tander at the recently moved pre-Bathurst warm up at Queensland Raceway ensured the pair’s pre-race favouritism. However, the Mountain had other ideas and the team were out after hitting a stricken car at Forrest’s Elbow during the first stint. Redemption was on the mind of GRM when it returned to the Mountain in 2000.
A strong season followed, particularly for Tander as he finished runner up in the 2000 title to Mark Skaife after round wins at Phillip Island and in Adelaide. But that wasn’t all. Not only was the Bathurst 1000 the biggest race of the year, but for the second time it provided the conclusion for the V8 Supercars Championship as the battle between Skaife and Tander for the title came to a dramatic ending.
Treacherous conditions throughout the weekend, including the race itself, meant a then record 13 safety car periods interrupted the day, however Tander and Bargwanna survived to take a momentous victory, leaving GRM to drop the underdog tag. It also provided Repco its first victory in the famous 1000km race after supporting various entries for close to 30 years.
The title may have gone to Skaife, but Tander’s performances at GRM set the tone for the rest of his career, culminating in becoming the Supercars champion in 2007. Bargwanna in turn enjoyed a long Supercars career and now supports son Ben in his racing endeavours.
This performance led to Holden entrusting its Monaro Bathurst 24 Hour program to GRM where it went on to secure both event victories, however it failed to take another 1000 victory and since it has withdrawn from the Supercars Championship.
As for the 2000 race-winning Commodore, it remains under GRM ownership and returned to the Mountain recently to be displayed among other legendary exhibits at the National Motor Racing Museum.