Some expected fireworks when James Courtney was named as Garth Tander’s Holden Racing Team teammate, but 2010 champ Courtney – who has raced around the world – says his and Tander’s is the best working relationship of any he’s had in racing.
The Coates Hire Sydney 500 marks Tander’s final event as a full-time racer with the Holden Racing Team, with the 2007 Supercars champion yet to announce his plans for 2017. Tander has been a long-serving member of the group, racing for sister squad HSV Dealer Team in 2005 before moving sideways and suiting up in red in 2008.
Courtney will continue to race on in the Walkinshaw squad with new recruit Scott Pye, but praised his current teammate, who he admits he’s learnt a lot from.
“I think we’ve probably surprised each other and ourselves with how well we have got on,” Courtney said.
“There was that incident last year – but really we haven’t had any bad words with each other, I put my hand up when it was my balls up then.
“We have worked quite well together, as much as it’s probably pissed a lot of people off because they thought there would be fireworks and we’d hate each other and it would explode and all that sort of stuff … going to the track, working together, it’s probably been my best ever working relationship with any teammate that I’ve had.”
Last year there were tensions in the garage after Courtney took Tander out at Winton, and then the following round in Darwin. There were mixed reports about how that affected the relationship, but the two pushed on and were able to scrape some positive results by the end of the year.
While there’s natural competition between teammates, Courtney believes overall they have learnt from one another along the way.
“We have very much the same sense of humour. I suppose I’m probably more outward with it publicly than Garth is, he probably pulls back when the public come and I probably go the next level,” Courtney said.
“I’m not going to say I’m the world’s greatest, I’ve learnt a lot from what he does and the way he operates and goes about things. I think we’ve both been big enough and strong enough in our own character that we have learnt from each other and worked.
“We haven’t pretended like we’re best of mates – we don’t talk away from the track or anything like that – it’s purely a working relationship, and I think that’s probably how it has survived over the six years.”
Six seasons makes the pair the most enduring at HRT, and while Tander did reference last year’s incidents, he was also positive about their working relationship.
“It’s ironic, really, with James because when it was announced he was coming to HRT everyone said we wouldn’t get along and ‘that won’t last, it’ll be six months and they’ll be at war’. We’ve been the longest teammates HRT ever had and had a good working relationship,” Tander said.
“Obviously, that got a little strained when my car was pointing backwards … but those things happen and in reality, on the whole it’s been a strong working relationship.
“There’s been no real games it’s just a matter of getting on with it, trying to improve the cars and that’s really been our focus the whole time, to try and make the cars better. For us to achieve that we had to work together.
"I feel like we did work really well together for the majority of the time.”
Tander will farewell HRT at the Coates Hire Sydney 500 this weekend, a circuit where both drivers recorded one win apiece back in the inaugural year, 2009.
For more from Courtney, tune in to tomorrow night’s episode of Inside Supercars at 7.30pm ADST on FOX SPORTS 506.