Courtney’s role in Perkins co-drive

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 11/10/2020
  • By Connor O'Brien

James Courtney has emerged as an influential figure in ensuring Jack Perkins did not miss the grid for the 2020 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

Fresh off scoring his maiden Bathurst podium at his 14th attempt last year, Perkins had lined up a plum co-drive for this season with an in-form Will Davison at 23Red Racing.

But things fell apart when 23Red’s title sponsor withdrew during the COVID hiatus, leaving both Davison and Perkins in limbo.

It was only in mid-September that Perkins snapped up one of the last remaining seats available, partnering Brad Jones Racing rookie Jack Smith.

It turns out Courtney, Perkins’ close mate who he spent the past five years co-driving with, was instrumental in orchestrating the deal.

“To be honest, JC really encouraged me to do this deal,” Perkins told Supercars.com.

“He’s friends with Jack and Pete Smith and he was very good on guidance in making sure I was back in the race and in this opportunity.

“So JC and a few others close to me certainly gave me the encouragement and the push on I needed to make sure I was on the grid and I’m pretty happy with how it has all worked out.”

A farmer by day on his family’s site in far northwestern Victoria, Perkins readily admits the 23Red situation was a tough break.

Even when Davison was left on the outer and Boost Mobile came into the Tickford quartet with Courtney in his place, it seemed logical that Perkins could retain that co-drive.

Boost though opted to dip into their stable for teen Broc Feeney, who they have long supported.

“Certainly many people thought I would be a walk-up start [with Courtney and Boost],” Perkins said.

“There was certainly a time when I thought that was going to be the case but it’s not and we just move on.

“I probably had my best ever endurance campaign last year… it would have been nice to be with James but I’m looking forward to lending my experience to Jack Smith.

“For me and my family, it’s pretty cool to be back in a Commodore and in Holden’s last year supporting the sport, it’s a nice little touch.”

Smith is just 21st in the championship but that has not eroded Perkins’ desire to take on a mentoring role.

“I’m aware of the position Jack is in because I have been there before,” he added.

“It’s tough being a first-year rookie, it’s not an easy thing to do. People are quite critical of Jack’s year but he has shown speed throughout the year.

“There’s been times where they have qualified within six or seven tenths of pole position and you don’t get credit for that sometimes because of the position, but it’s such a tough game to master and qualifying was my weak link in terms of being a main game full-time driver.

“I’m just looking forward to lending my experience and helping Jack with his progression and hopefully that’s a benefit to the team and the car and we can walk away with a good, solid result.”

The Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 will involve 161 laps around Mount Panorama next Sunday.

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