James Courtney is looking forward to jumping back in his Holden Commodore V8 Supercar and is hoping to make it through the full season this time.
The 2010 champion was injured in a freak helicopter accident in pit lane last year, which forced him to sit out the Sydney Motorsport Park, Sandown and Bathurst events. He was fifth in the championship at the time of injury and while his Holden Racing Team isn’t making excuses about last year’s performance, there’s still a question of what could’ve been.
Add to that the fact that Courtney had to miss the final round in 2013 after breaking his leg in a crash at Phillip Island – and he’s only completed one full season in the last three years.
“For sure it’s going to be good – fingers crossed, and touch wood – to do a whole season again,” Courtney told v8supercars.com.au.
“It’s going to be good, everyone’s starting from scratch and the usual blokes are going to be the fast ones. I don’t think too much is going to change in that way of things, but it’s going to be good for me and also for Garth [Tander, teammate] to be able to start again and see how we go.”
Courtney will race a brand new car at the Clipsal 500 – which he’ll steer at a shakedown next week and the Victorian teams’ pre-season test on February 22.
Over the break Walkinshaw Racing, which runs HRT, has downsized to focus on the two ‘red’ cars, losing two of its four RECs (racing entitlement contract – licence to race). The REC underpinning Tim Slade’s entry was sold to Super Black and the other shifted with REC holder Charlie Schwerkolt, who is setting up his own team with contracted driver Lee Holdsworth.
Along with teammate Tander, Courtney believes the change is best for the group.
“I think as a team we tried to run four cars for quite a long time and never really did it properly, so it’s good they put their hand up and said, 'no this isn’t for us anymore' and have concentrated on just myself and Garth,” he aid.
“So anytime the focus is just on our two cars it’s going to be better for us as a team and organisation – so I think it’s good.
“It’s really sad to see Sladey and ‘Leethal’ go but times have to change I guess, things have to change.”
Rolling into the Clipsal 500 for the year’s first event gives Courtney confidence, given he’s aiming for the three-peat this time around. He has won Sunday’s race for the past two years, and winning the 250km dash means being crowned the event winner.
Tander was also on the podium last year, and dubbed HRT ‘street track specialists’. The team knows it must branch out and have more success at other circuits.
“As a team we’ve always had really strong results there [in Adelaide]. It’s a happy place to go to for us, typically we can roll the cars out there and get a good result – it’s so important to start the year strong and make sure you score points,” Courtney said.
“We’ve come way with wins the last two years which is fantastic and it’d be amazing and quite an achievement to go three in a row but we’ll just see how we go when we get there and tackle it.”
“I was pretty happy with the speed of the car the last couple of rounds and they tried a lot of things on the cars to try and sort it out a bit and I think we got a long way down the road to helping with that,” he said.
Courtney was in Adelaide recently to check out the track build progress and is eager to get back behind the wheel.
“I enjoy Clipsal, it has been pretty good to me in the past, so I’m pretty keen to get there and get the year underway.”