It’s not a win but third on the grid for this afternoon’s Race 14 of the Virgin Supercars Australia Championship at the Castrol EDGE Townsville 400 feels pretty darn good as far as the Holden Racing Team’s James Courtney is concerned.
And now the challenge is to convert his best qualifying position of the year into his second win and first since Saturday afternoon at the season opening Clipsal 500.
“I’d be happier if it was (a win) this afternoon,” Courtney told supercars.com after claiming the inside position on row two for this afternoon’s 200km race.
“It’s like pole position for us really, although we are still three tenths off (ARMOR ALL pole qualifier Jamie) Whincup, so there is still room to improve, obviously.
“But it is great to be able to see the starting lights rather than the repeater sets.”
Courtney, who led the championship Saturday night of the Clipsal 500, has slumped to 10th in the drivers’ championship as HRT endured a painfully public development process in recent months, including a swap from Al McVean to Rob Starr as his engineer from the last event in Darwin.
Team-mate Garth Tander, who has dropped from fifth to 11th in the championship and has also swapped engineers, qualified only 20th today.
“It’s been tough for us and qualifying hasn’t been great. In the end we are here to win races and not qualifying but it makes this afternoon so much easier to be up the front,” the Holden Commodore VF driver said.
HRT has good history at Reid Park, Tander leading Courtney home in a 1-2 in both 2013 and 2014.
“Historically we have done really well here and me previously in all the cars I have driven I have enjoyed street circuits, so that’s probably got a lot to do with it.
“The car typically works well on these circuits – or it’s not as big a drama here as it has been at other places.
“But also we have done a lot of work with the car all year – it is always constantly evolving.
“It is a combination of a lot of things, but the thing is we have to be consistent and do it and be able to roll out tomorrow and do the same things.
“And that is something we have struggled with all year, we have been able to kick it on one day and the next day it is gone.
“I will be a little bit happier after tomorrow’s qualifying session if we are here and we have had a good race.
“But it is a long road to the end, we are far from jumping and cheering in here but it definitely makes every one a lot happier.”
Courtney predicted that management of the Dunlop soft tyre would play a big role in determining the outcome of today’s race.
“Tyre wear s going to be horrendous here, you really murder the left rear tyre on the last sector of the lap. And the undercut is going to be pretty strong.
“But you have to make sure you don’t get bated in to pitting too early and then getting over-run at the end.
“It’s something the boys are working on and have already looked at and I am sure they have made the right decision.”