James Courtney has welcomed the news he will be reunited with his friend and former colleague Adrian Burgess at the Holden Racing Team in 2014.
But the star driver has rejected the suggestion he played any role in luring the Englishman from his position as team manager at Red Bull Racing Australia to becoming managing director of Walkinshaw Racing, replacing fellow Englishman Steve Hallam.
Courtney, who has just re-signed with HRT for another thee years, said the shock Burgess deal was driven by Walkinshaw Racing chairman Ryan Walkinshaw, who assumed control in difficult circumstances after his father and business founder Tom died in late 2010.
Courtney also said Burgess joining the team wasn’t a stipulation of his contract renewal.
“We have a great relationship but it was Ryan’s deal,” he told v8supercars.com.au.
“I think everyone doesn’t give Ryan enough credit. Everyone saw him as the party boy who didn’t really take it seriously rolling off the back of his family name and he has done an amazing job with getting this over the line. It is a huge slap in the face for everyone up and down pitlane who didn’t respect him and take him seriously.
“From now on everyone will definitely sit up and listen and watch what he is doing when he is in and around town, so credit to Ryan for getting the job done.
“No-one saw it coming and I think he has definitely gone a long way to proving to people that he has what his Dad had and he will deliver.”
Burgess departed RBRA yesterday after tendering his resignation to Triple Race Engineering boss Roland Dane and is on ‘gardening leave’ for the remainder of the season.
Walkinshaw Racing is also believed to be on the verge of making another major staffing announcement, with former HRT engineer Mathew ‘Techo’ Nilsson expected to rejoin the operation in 2014 after a stint at Ford Performance Racing (FPR).
Hallam joined HRT in January 2012 as part of Walkinshaw’s restructure and revamp of the business. HRT has endured the longest winless steak in its history as it struggled to regain competitiveness against the Triple Eight juggernaut, breaking through at the Sucrogen Townsville 400 when Garth Tander and Courtney finished 1-2 in Race 21.
Courtney first worked with Burgess in British Formula Three at Carlin Motorsport in 2002. They reunited at Dick Johnson Racing and won the 2010 V8 Supercars drivers’ Championship despite that team’s much publicised internal issues.
Burgess then moved on to Triple Eight Race Engineering and oversaw Jamie Whincup’s 2011-12 Championship wins, while Courtney has been toiling away at HRT.
Burgess worked with Hallam at McLaren, winning World Championships with drivers such as Ayrton Senna and Mika Hakkinen. He also had a stint at Jordan Grand Prix.
“I think it is definitely a big win for the team and he will be a big asset,” said Courtney.
“For me his biggest strength is he can get the most out of everyone. He can really pull groups together and really get a team working as a team. A lot of people don’t realise what a team sport this is. It’s all about the people you have around you and that is definitely a strength of his.
“He has a towering will to win. He wants it so bad and he never switches off from it.”
But Courtney also reserved praise for Hallam and the effort he has put in during his stint, which will continue until the end of this season.
“Adrian’s job will be made a little easier by all the work that has gone on since I have been there, with Steve coming onboard and all the work he has done getting us out of the hole we have been in.”
Courtney also downplayed any impact Burgess’ departure might have on Triple Eight.
“It’s obviously annoyed them a little bit but they have been incredibly successful without him and they will continue to be speedy without him. It may distract them for a couple of weeks while they try and work out what they are going to do, but they still have plenty of people there that will call the shots and get the job done.
“I don’t think we are going to go to the next round and the Triple Eight boys are last and second last.”