HRT hunt begins for Courtney replacement

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 24/08/2015
  • By V8 Supercars

The Holden Racing Team has started making contact with potential replacement drivers for James Courtney while still hoping its star driver can make a miracle recovery from his broken ribs to drive in the Wilson Security Sandown 500.

Public acknowledgement from the team that Courtney won't partner Jack Perkins at Sandown in the opening round of the Pirtek Enduro Cup will probably only be made in early September, when a replacement driver would be scheduled to participate in a pre-enduro test at Winton scheduled for all four Walkinshaw Racing Holden Commodore VFs.

"The line in the sand is our test day on September 3," confirmed Walkinshaw Racing managing director Adrian Burgess. "If we don't feel we will be able to run James at Sandown then the replacement will be able to run and will run on September 3."

Courtney was the victim of a bizarre accident last Friday in pitlane at Sydney Motorsport Park when the wash from a navy helicopter participating in a demonstration dislodged an advertising sign that smashed into his body and broke two ribs and collapsed a lung.

He was transported to Westmead hospital and is due to travel home to the Gold Coast by road within days to commence his recovery. An injury such as this usually takes six weeks to heal. Sandown is three weeks away and Bathurst is seven weeks away.

"People are saying numbers; three weeks, six weeks, eight weeks (recovery time). But we are not subscribing to any of that," Burgess told v8supercars.com.au.

"We are not discounting that James will be in the car (for Sandown). We will give it and he will give it our best shot and his best shot to give him the ability and spare no expense and the people and the technology in order to speed up his recovery and get him back in the car as soon as we can.

"But when I say that, it has to be in the right way. There's no point sticking him in the car at 80 per cent and he does some more damage and not only does he have a bad Sandown but he has a bad Bathurst too."

Burgess confirmed consultations with Walkinshaw Racing owner Ryan Walkinshaw and Holden Motorsport's Simon McNamara about potential replacements and that he had started making contact with them.

"The time we need to make a decision on a replacement driver isn't now, it's probably two weeks away," Burgess said.

While Burgess was unwilling to name names, News Limited reported he had made contacts with American sports car racer Patrick Long, who impressed when he raced as an international co-driver on the Gold Coast.

Meanwhile, Australian expat and former HRT long distance co-driver Ryan Briscoe is understood to have made contact with Burgess. He shared the Supercheap Auto Commodore with Russell Ingall at Sandown in 2013, finishing ninth.

Locally-based drivers who drove in the PEC last year but aren't entered in 2015 include Craig Baird, Steven Johnson and the retired Ingall, Greg Murphy and Paul Morris.

Burgess has made it clear any replacement driver for #22 to partner Jack Perkins will come from outside the organisation and will not be sourced from one of the other team cars.

"That does cross your mind but that is not the right thing to do in these circumstances. The other three cars are fighting hard in their own championships and those driver pairings have each had time with each other and they are settled in.

"We don't want to upset the other areas of the team just for James' sake.

"The last thing I would think of and the worst thing I could do is say to one of the other guys 'I am taking your co-driver because I am going to have two unhappy people instead of one."

While acknowledging Sandown will be a challenge, Burgess is confident Courtney will make the grid for the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000: "With a fair wind we should be right for Bathurst," he said.

V8 Supercars medico Dr Carl Le will be a primary consultant on Courtney's treatment and recovery, as will WR's physio Phil Young. They will act as conduits to treatment and other medical experts.

"Ribs are ribs and they are not a simple thing, but there is enough technology around, procedures known to us and new technology we have found out about even since Friday that will help speed that process up," explained Burgess.

"Those things are already parked up and ready to be turned on, but the problem for us right now is the lung and how quickly we can be in a positon to start the process around the ribs.

"The ribs will take longer to heal but we have to have the lung in the right condition before we can start trying to fix the ribs."

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