Alexandra Whitley and Leanne Tander team up for SsangYong enduro

Alexandra Whitley and Leanne Tander team up for SsangYong enduro.

Author - Simon Chapman

Velocity News


The season ending SsangYong Racing Series enduro at Pukekohe Park is set to feature a formidable all-star Australian lineup.

Up-and-coming ute racer Alexandra Whitley and accomplished open wheel racer Leanne Tander will join forces in Whitley’s Waikato SsangYong Actyon Ute.

The pair met several years ago and have wanted to race together given the opportunity.

Both are part of the Women of Australian Motorsport [WAMS] organisation, a collective of like-minded individuals aiming to grow involvement, promote and support women across all facets of Motor Sport in Australia.

Following a Facebook message to Tander she agreed to fly over for a test drive.

Tander was keen to come, but there were initially scheduling concerns. Fortunately, they managed to squeeze in a private test day at Pukekohe Park ahead of the series final amidst her and husband Garth’s busy schedules.

Whitley said she’s excited to have Tander join her for the two one-and-a-half-hours-long endurance races.

“It’s awesome to say we’ve got an all-women team and even better to say we’re Aussies so we can have the Aussie–Kiwi rivalry,” Whitley said.

“I’m looking forward to it and Leanne is going to be fast. It’s different to anything she’s ever raced, but she’s raced a lot of cars. Once she’d done 10 laps it was like a second home.

“She’s had a test in the car and was really fast. She’s really consistent and I was really impressed with how quickly she picked it up, so now we’re teaming up now.”

37-year-old Tander – wife of Supercars driver Garth Tander – has been a familiar face in the Australian racing circles since the late ‘90s. She drove in the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on two occasions (2001 and 2009) with a best finish of 12th.

Tander was also a runner-up for two years in a row in the Australian Drivers’ Championship, a series for Formula 3 cars.

It’s not the first time Tander has raced New Zealand. In 2006 Tander raced in the third season of the Toyota Racing Series, which was won by Dan Gaunt.

More recently she drove in the Australian Formula Ford Series, which she won in 2016.

Speaking with velocitynews.co.nz from Australia, Tander said the chance to race with Whitely has been in the works for a while.

“It’s something that we’ve both wanted to have an opportunity to drive with each other,” Tander said.

“It’s a bit of fun and it’ll be great to work with Alex.”

Tander’s first test in the ute was a bit of an eye opener, given her previous Formula 3 and Supercars experience.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was surprised at how well they handle given the size of them and how soft they are.

“I enjoyed driving at Pukekohe before because I haven’t been there before, it was very enjoyable”

Tander said she’s looking forward to racing in the series come March 24-25. It’ll be the first time she’s raced at Pukekohe Park and knows it will be a challenge.

“It’s one of those circuits where there are only a couple of corners. You’ve only got a couple of corners to make up ground, so if you stuff up one corner it’s going to cost you the lap on those long straights. It’s technically challenging, but it’s fast and a lot of fun.

“My goal is to not let Alexandra down. I’ll do what I need to do to bring the car back and go as fast as I can for her. Hopefully it all goes well, and we should be there or thereabouts.”

While Tander is just hoping to bring the ute home unscathed, Whitley said she’s there to fight hard for the win. Whitley sits ninth in the overall series standings, but after her win last year was snatched away she wants to come back and get victory.

“We won the enduro last year, but with the points change after the race it was stripped from, so it’s made me twice as determined to go out there and win it.

Whitley will also be racing in the ENEOS New Zealand Endurance Championship final over March 23-24 in the SsangYong SuperUte.