Suddenly the V8 Supercars Championship is within reach of James Courtney.
The 2010 Champion celebrated his first win for the resurgent Holden Racing Team since the opening round of the 2011 Championship at Winton last Sunday and promptly declared himself up for the battle.
It was the team’s second race win in three Championship events after Garth Tander led Courtney home in a 1-2 at the Sucrogen Townsville 400. That broke a victory drought that stretched back to Bathurst 2011.
With more horsepower on the way for the HRT Commodore VFs, a test scheduled prior to the Wilson Security Sandown 500 in September and four-time Bathurst winner Greg Murphy co-driving for the three-round PIRTEK Enduro Cup, Courtney is oozing confidence.
“I think I am in a really strong position,” he said.
“We have been building and building and building and we still have more stuff to come so it’s a fantastic time for the Holden Racing Team and a great time of year to be coming on strong. I’m looking forward to Bathurst.”
Courtney has climbed to sixth in the Championship and is now only 160 points behind leader Jamie Whincup in the Red Bull Commodore VF, who had a wretched run at Winton. After a post-race penalty of 25 Championship points was handed to Craig Lowndes after late contact with Michael Caruso in Race 27, the RBRA driver has dropped to fourth in the standings, with Pepsi Max Crew FPR pair Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom elevated to second and third overall. Two hundred and 45 points now cover the top nine drivers. Click here for the updated points table.
Three hundred points are on offer for the winners of both Sandown and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. The final PIRTEK Enduro Cup event, the ARMOR ALL Gold Coast 600, offers 150 points per race.
“It’s 300 points you can gain or lose, so it is very much open,” Courtney declared.
“We have to share our car with someone else and that is always pretty exciting because they are in control of your championship for a little bit there.
“I couldn’t be happier with having Murph onboard. The guy has so much experience and I think I am going to learn a lot from him driving in those three events as well.”
Courtney said he had never lost belief that he would win again despite the tough 2011 and 2012 seasons when the factory team was at times completely uncompetitive. Even in the first part of this season, there were poor rounds until parts upgrades started to gel following a May test at Winton.
“I always knew it was going to happen,” said Courtney. “The thing is we have been working so hard and the crazy thing is we can see so much that is coming and the whole time we have been saying ‘it’s coming, it’s coming’ and you guys (media) have probably been thinking ‘nothing is coming, you are just making it up’. But there are things in the pipeline and nothing happens overnight.”
Courtney said the efforts of process-driven Walkinshaw Racing managing director Steve Hallam had played a key role in the resurrection by bringing structure to the operation.
“We are starting to reap the benefit from that now, we have more new stuff that is going to be on the cars for Sandown and it is engine stuff so it’s free time. The cars are only going to get stronger from where we are and we are putting a lot of money into development.
“Blind Freddy could see how far we were behind and I think the guys have done an amazing job to get it back. To have a couple of pole positions and this race win now, the one-two we had at Townsville and I have been on the podium every time since our last test, so it’s been a credit to everyone. We have all put in the hard work.”
The next V8 Supercars event – the Wilson Security Sandown 500 – runs from September 13-15, with tickets now available.