James Courtney expects the Coates Hire Newcastle 500 to be an emotional experience, as he bids farewell to Walkinshaw Andretti United after nine seasons.
The oldest driver in the current field at 39, Courtney has signed on to be part of the new Team Sydney project in 2020, extending his full-time Supercars career to a 15th year.
Courtney joined what was then the Holden Racing Team as the reigning champion in 2010, defecting with the #1 plate from Dick Johnson Racing.
The partnership has failed to deliver any better than sixth in the standings, achieved in 2014, with two of his campaigns curtailed by injury.
Highlights have included a win on debut with the team in Abu Dhabi, race wins at the Adelaide 500 in 2014, ’15 and ’16, and victory on return from injury alongside Jack Perkins on the Gold Coast in ’15.
“I can’t believe it’s the end of the season already,” said Courtney, whose exit from WAU was announced in August, followed by confirmation of his Sydney deal in October.
“I’ve been here for over a quarter of my life, so this weekend is certainly going to be emotional.
“There’s people here that are like family. I can’t thank Martine, Ryan and the entire WAU family enough for everything, and would love nothing more than going out on a high.
“Newcastle is a crazy place, the crowds are awesome, and the track is insane, so it’s always a weekend I look forward to.”
Teammate Scott Pye is also having his last drive for the team after a three-year tenure. He’ll join an expanded Team 18 in 2020 alongside Mark Winterbottom.
Pye replaced Garth Tander as the Walkinshaw team transitioned from HRT to HSV Racing in 2017 and took the first – and so far only – win for the WAU alliance in March ’18.
“It’s been a great three years here, and the people, especially the boys on the car, are people I’m going to have a relationship with for a long time,” said Pye.
“We will be pushing hard to send it out on a high and spray some champagne.
“The car speed at the last few rounds has been good, it’s been fun to drive, so we head in confident of having a car we can fight with when we roll out on Friday.”
Courtney and Pye enter the weekend 11th and 12th in the standings respectively, separated by 127 points.
The former scored the squad’s only podium of 2019 to date alongside Jack Perkins at Bathurst before finishing sixth in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, two places behind Pye and Warren Luff.
WAU’s all-new line-up for 2020 is set to be spearheaded by Chaz Mostert, while newly crowned Dunlop Super2 champ Bryce Fullwood is thought to be the favourite for the second seat.