Six years ago today – December 14, 2010 - came the news that most Supercars fans knew was coming and that Ford fans didn’t want to hear – James Courtney was joining the Holden Racing Team.
Having just clinched his very first Supercars crown in the dramatic season finale in Sydney for Dick Johnson Racing aboard the team’s #18 Jim Beam Racing Ford Falcon, Courtney was officially announced as Will Davison’s replacement alongside Garth Tander for the new season.
The news came just days after the death of team principal Tom Walkinshaw and was the start of a six-year stint as teammates for Courtney and Tander that came to an end recently with the completion of the 2016 season.
“I met Tom on a number of occasions,” said Courtney at the time of his signing with HRT.
“He was a hard core racer whose goal was always to win and he had my total respect and admiration.
“Tom expected results and that is exactly what I plan to bring to Toll HRT and with Garth take the team back to where it belongs.
“Throughout my career I have continually challenged myself and after now having won the V8 Supercar Championship it is time for another test.”
But, as history shows, the challenge of giving the Holden Racing Team its first Supercars crown since 2002 has proven to be too tough a test for Courtney and his team to pass.
The former Japanese Formula 3 and British Formula Ford Champion was competitive in the final event of this season at Sydney Olympic Park but podium results eluded him in the farewell weekend for HRT as the industry has known it since 1990.
“The race was going pretty good on Sunday, we were third, and after the last (pit) stop we had a slow leak in the rear tyre, so it hindered our performance a bit,” said Courtney post-race.
Next year the official HRT banner is headed to Roland Dane’s Red Bull squad, leaving the former HRT outfit run by Walkinshaw Racing to carry on its racing program under another, yet to be announced, banner.
“To all the HRT fans, thanks for the last six years; it’s been epic, you guys are full on but it’s been awesome having your support,” Courtney told HRT fans in a post-season team social video.
“Hopefully you guys stay around and stay with Walkinshaw; it’s an exciting future.”
So, after six years racing the famous red Commodores, how has Courtney actually faired?
The 2010 champion has only finished better than 10th in the Supercars Championship once since joining HRT full-time – in 2014 when he finished sixth in the final pointscore.
Otherwise the results sheet has been disappointing with final pointscore results for Courtney of 10th in 2011, 2012 and 2015 (despite missing four races at SMP, Sandown and Bathurst) and 11th in 2013 and 2016.
Courtney has competed in 83 rounds and 193 races in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship for HRT covering 2011 to 2016.
He missed the Sandown and Bathurst rounds in 2015 entirely and also the races at Sydney Motorsport Park due to injuries sustained by debris thrown in the air by an overhead hovering helicopter.
From 193 races he’s claimed seven victories for HRT – one on his full-time HRT debut weekend in Abu Dhabi in 2011, one in 2013 at Winton, two in 2014 (Adelaide and Queensland Raceway), two in Adelaide and Gold Coast and one this year in Adelaide.
He now has a career VASC race win tally of 15, one with Stone Brothers Racing, seven with Dick Johnson Racing and seven with HRT.
Courtney has also collected 30 podium finishes with HRT and seven pole positions.
Scott Pye will join him in a two-car team in 2017 at Walkinshaw Racing aboard a pair of VF Commodores.