James Courtney has stressed his commitment to Mobil 1 HSV Racing despite labelling the squad ‘the McLaren of Supercars’.
Courtney signed a fresh three-year deal with the team last September but has endured a horror opening half of the 2017 season and currently sits just 20th in points.
The run of poor form has triggered the latest in a series of restructures at the former Holden factory team which Courtney joined as the reigning champion in 2011.
Courtney, 37, draws a direct parallel with struggling Formula 1 giant McLaren, but insists he’s committed to the team for the long haul.
“I want this thing to succeed as much as Ryan (Walkinshaw), his mum Martine and everyone,” Courtney told Supercars.com.
“We’ve got going on seven years invested into this and I don’t want to walk away. I still want this thing to work and am pushing as hard as I can to make this organisation come together.
“Sure it’s a bit of a shit time at the moment but it’s going to be good when it all comes together.”
While Walkinshaw has assessed buying technology from other teams, Courtney says development continues internally alongside moves to recruit more engineers.
Walkinshaw attended the recent Watpac Townsville 400 and has remained in Australia in a bid to help the team move forward.
Courtney during a troubled Saturday race in Townsville
The squad’s machine shop is currently working flat-out to produce new parts to run at the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint in just over a week’s time.
“Part of what Ryan is doing here at the moment is trying to employ people to fill holes and I think as a team and for our fan base, it’s great that he’s here rather than being away,” said Courtney.
“It shows that he wants it to work. Strength comes from the top and with him actively here pushing, the team feels different when he’s here. Everyone wants to perform and work hard.”
A typically honest Courtney spoke openly about where he believes the team’s Commodores are deficient and why it has gone backwards following the introduction of a new construction Dunlop control tyre this season.
“The whole time loss for us is from the apex to the exit of the corner,” explained Courtney.
“It’s good on the brake, I can start to get the rotation, but when you get to the mid-point of the corner and you want the car to rotate that last bit to crack the throttle, it won’t set and roll onto the rear corner properly.
“Initially it has a push and that push will snap and turn into a flat slide. You have to hesitate on the throttle and then you lose out all the way down the straight.
“Really the six years I’ve been here that’s been the trouble with our car and the tyre change has only magnified the problem.
“With this tyre we’re generating more speed in the middle phase of the corner, where you’re laterally loading it and then getting on the throttle.
“That’s where the extra lap time is coming from. It’s where we were suffering previously and I think it’s why this year it’s been such a big step (backwards).”
Courtney says there’s still plenty of scope for improving the cars with additional engineering muscle.
Courtney has struggled to hide his frustration at times this season
“There’s a lot of stuff (to work on). All of the (top) teams are running twin-springs in the front and rear, we’re still running linear front and rear,” he said.
“There’s so much scope for us to experiment and it’s just a matter of what area and how to do it and we need the right people to guide us in the right direction.
“It’s like any business it’s about having the right people in the right position and I think our engineering group for the size of our team is tiny. There’s three guys and one part-time.
“We’re actively trying to recruit people to boost our engineering side of things. That’s where the car speed comes from.”
On a personal level, Courtney says it’s been the toughest year of his Supercars career but insists his motivation hasn’t wavered.
“I’m probably training harder now than I have in my whole career. I think a lot of it is getting frustration out. I feel like I’m in better shape than ever,” he said.
“I feel that I’m doing everything I can. We are the McLaren of Supercars at the moment, but we’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep pressing on and looking for the solution.
“We’re not giving up. We’re still fighting and actively trying to fix the car. It’s a matter of keeping on trying.”
A ninth place for Courtney at the most recent event in Townsville snapped a run of 10-straight results of 17th or worse for the #22 entry.
Team-mate Scott Pye has fared little better and sits 18th in points with one top 10 finish for the season that was achieved at Hidden Valley last month.