Pleasure and Pain

  • 25/10/2015
  • By Bruce Newton
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

Comeback hero James Courtney has revealed the pain he has endured to score a sensational win in the Gold Coast 600 with Jack Perkins in a Holden Racing Team Commodore VF this afternoon.

And he has also confirmed he is far from fit and may never fully recover from the injuries sustained when he was hit by pitlane signage stirred up by a low-flying Navy helicopter at the Sydney Motorsport Park V8 Supercars in August.

Diagnosed with five broken ribs and a punctured lung, he missed the SMP races, the Wilson Security 500 and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 before returning for this weekend's championship event on the rough and tumble Gold Coast street circuit.

He and Perkins finished fifth on Saturday but then emerged in front on Sunday in a race where fuel strategy proved key and Courtney's engineer Al McVean's decision to pit twice for fuel only a few laps apart delivered the final advantage.

"I am in a lot of pain, it's hurting a lot," Courtney told post-race.

"It's the bumping, the bouncing and everything, its pretty violent in there so the way you sit there is a bit going on and that makes it pretty difficult.

"All the cartilage at the front (of the chest), the muscle has been torn off so as you are sitting it's crunching and that is very unpleasant."

Courtney admitted he and HRT had purposely played down the amount of pain he was in during the Gold Coast weekend. He will have an MRI on Monday to discover if he has suffered fresh injuries over the weekend.

"We have kept it pretty quiet and just pressed on it with it," said Courtney. "There is no point over the weekend of making a big hurrah about it and saying 'poor me' and whatever. We just got on with the job."

"There is no point in making a big hurrah about it because that's what you have to do.

"I am mended enough for me to do this and they say I am going to have pain for the rest of his life with the amount of trauma I have had in there and the way the ribs have been jammed back into my spine and all that sort of stuff.

"All that is still going on and we will be dealing with that for a long time to come."

Courtney revealed he slept sitting up for the first three weeks after the accident and can still only sleep fitfully on his back now.

He has also had to wean himself off opiate-based pain killers before Bathurst in case he was cleared to drive at Mount Panorama.

"I can only sleep on my back and I pass out at about 10.30 and wake up at 12 till 3am and then I was smashing sleeping tablets to try and sleep and then at 3am you sort of pass out again and at 5.30am I am up.

"I took myself off everything the week of Bathurst because I couldn't be on it if I wanted to be racing, so I had to get off that.

"And because it was all opia-based things you are addicted to it and while I was at Bathurst I was going through the cold turkey, cold sweats and all that sort of stuff.

"There has been so much s--- it has been horrendous."

But Courtney declared he never had doubts about returning to the cockpit after his latest serious injuries - he broke his leg in 2013 when rammed by an out-of-control rival at Phillip Island, while back in 2002 he suffered head injuries in massive accident at Monza when a Jaguar Formula One car he was testing broke its rear suspension at 306km/h.

"You could cut off my arm and I would still be here driving," he said. "I have unfortunately had a few injuries to come back from and I have probably - as everyone would agree on -a pretty big ego, so I never questioned my own ability and the faith in my team. I was never questioning that I was good enough, I am still the same bloke.

He said he derived great satisfaction from being able to come back from injury and win, especially with Perkins, whose father Larry sponsored him with $5000 when he was a junior karter.

"When anyone has a setback and you come back and can say 'f---- you I can still do it', it's awesome. I am so happy to do it with Jack.

"I have known him since we were young. His dad supported me when I was younger and to sit and watch Bathurst with Larry and go through that whole emotion and to experience our first win together was pretty emotional for me and especially with all we have had as well."

And in typical fashion Courtney couldn't resist firing a warning shot at HRT's rivals.

"We haven't got the best car in the championship by far but we have a really solid group of blokes who are very determined and put in a crazy amount of hours so we can get the job done.

"And you can see that when it comes to strategy and thinking outside the box, we are always jumping up in the longer ones.

"So the boys are very good at that and once we get the car sorted you won't see which way we have gone."

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