Motorsport: Ford vs Holden era nearing its end

Garth Tander has his eye on the prize in Adelaide this weekend. Photo / Getty Images
Garth Tander has his eye on the prize in Adelaide this weekend. Photo / Getty Images

It is the start of the end of an era. V8 Supercars' last season as exclusively Holden versus Ford kicks off at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide today - and Holden has already finalised its battle plans for what lies ahead.

Victory for Holden in the showpiece season-opener would cap off a huge week in which the manufacturer has pledged its long-term financial support to its two marquee teams - Holden Racing Team (HRT) and Team Vodafone.

HRT's new off-track leadership faces its first test in returning the team to championship success, and it already has drivers Garth Tander and James Courtney under long-term deals.

And Team Vodafone has - as expected - re-signed the sport's best-known face Craig Lowndes on a new deal which will take the 37-year-old three-time champion into his 40s.

With new manufacturers headed by Nissan to join the series from next year, Holden's is well placed off the track.

Now attention turns to a Clipsal 500 restored to its place as the season-opening event, and HRT has declared it wants on-track bragging rights back from Team Vodafone and V8 champion Jamie Whincup.

"Everything the team said was going to happen, they've delivered on, and we've put ourselves in a strong position to start the year on a better foot than how we started last year," Tander said of HRT.

"We feel we've developed the car over the break but we won't know until we turn a wheel on Friday."

New HRT managing director Steve Hallam - an ex-Formula One and NASCAR engineer - and team manager Mike Henry come with vast experience at the highest levels of world motorsport.

Tander had a mixed 2011, winning Bathurst with a drive for the ages, but finishing fifth in the championship.

He says nothing less than finishing with the title will do for the new HRT.

"It was a year where we had some fantastic success and some really bad weekends where we didn't perform to expectations," he said.

"We needed to be more consistent.

"For us, a successful year is winning the championship. There are very high expectations put on HRT and, when we haven't lived up to those expectations, we feel we've underperformed."

The Clipsal 500 has been an excellent guide to the championship.

Six of the past 13 V8 Supercar series winners have won in Adelaide the same year.

Whincup's three titles have all come in years he won the Clipsal 500.

More than 270,000 people are expected over the four-day event, which started on Thursday with a full day of support-category races.

Practice and qualifying are scheduled for Friday, with 250km races on Saturday and Sunday.

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