James Courtney has earned his first podium at Sydney Motorsport Park, racing at the circuit for the first time in two years after a horrendous accident in 2015.
The Holden Racing Team driver was ‘best of the rest’ today behind Red Bull teammates Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup, after starting fifth and making an impressive double pass on young guns Chaz Mostert and Scott Pye early on.
Courtney admitted he was hoping the teammates would take each other out during their heated battle in the dying laps, but put all three of their results down to experience as tyres degraded quickly at the abrasive circuit.
“I could see a bit of smoke coming around Corporate Hill on that last lap and had my fingers crossed!” Courtney said.
“I was pretty sure they wouldn’t run into each other.
“Their car speed was really pretty good and we were coming back at them but they were having their own battle and I’m sure Roland [Dane, boss] or whoever talks to them on the radio said that I was closer.
“I am sure they could have gone a bit harder and kept us where we were.”
Courtney’s lap four pass got him on the podium, and he put it down to his experience and ability to read the play.
“You have to have your exit strategy in case things something goes wrong but also you’re trying to benefit from what they’re doing,” he said.
“I could see he was having quite a big lunge, I knew he was going to run deep I was just wider and cut back in and got the both of them at once.
“I think they were surprised and I was probably a little surprised it worked out to be honest.”
The podium result comes amidst a tough time at HRT with news Holden would cease to support the team after 2016.
Courtney praised his team’s efforts, having pulled off a flawless pit stop and improved the car to give it more balance and predictability.
“It’s been a bit of a hairy time for us at HRT,” he said.
“So to have those guys do a great job in the pits with strategy, the stop – to get past Prodrive legitimately and keep them behind me all day.
“Robbie [Starr, engineer] did a great job on the radio keeping me informed of what these cats were doing. There was a lot of communication through this race … no one really know how much to push.