'No way': Why retirement wasn't an option for Courtney

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 07/10/2021
  • By Charlie Bullis

Full-time retirement wasn't a consideration for James Courtney, who has signed a multi-year contract extension with Tickford Racing.

It was confirmed Thursday that the 2010 series champion will remain with Tickford for 2022 and beyond.

Courtney joined the Ford team mid-way through 2020. His new deal will make him a four-year Tickford driver at the least.

The 2022 season will be Courtney's 17th full-time Supercars campaign.

When he rolls out in Newcastle in March 2022, he will be the oldest active full-time driver at 41 years of age.

When asked if he contemplated hanging up the helmet, Courtney explained how his turbulent 2020 played a pivotal role in his future.

"To be honest, if someone asked me five years ago if I'd still be racing, or even 10 years ago into my mid-40s, I would have thought they were crazy," he told Supercars.com.

"I was like just no way, I'm 40, cut-off, out, pull the shoot, I'm done.

"But I think with what happened with the whole [Team] Sydney thing, with that not happening, and getting a sneak peek of what life would be like after racing, I was like, 'Screw that, I'm not ready to do that yet'.

"Then to come back and be enjoying my racing so much as I'm, I can't see [retirement] happening anytime soon.

Courtney (L) scored his first Tickford podium in Darwin last year

"Thankfully, I've got a few more years before I have to do that."

Courtney's sudden departure from Team Sydney came after just a single Supercars event in 2020.

He scored his first podium for Tickford in just his third event for the team in Darwin.

He backed it up with an equal season-best qualifying in Townsville, before finishing 10th at the season-ending Bathurst 1000 with 18-year-old debutant Broc Feeney.

The re-signing also ensures the experienced Courtney, a veteran of 482 race starts, will lead the team into the Gen3 era.

11 years have passed since Courtney won the 2010 title

"It's been pretty surreal, the whole Tickford experience to be honest, after what went on with the Team Sydney thing," Courtney explained.

"Then not knowing for six months and not having a drive.

"[Now] I feel re-energised, I'm enjoying my racing more now than I think I ever have in Supercars, and probably back to when I was karting.

"I look forward to the weekends, I love the battles up and down the grid.

"Whether it’s being in the front like we did in Townsville this season, where I launched off the start and got into the lead.

"Or like at Darwin when I had a horrendous qualifying at the back, then raced through to fourth and then got done for a restart thing, and back to 10th.

"I think my personal life is really good at the moment too, the kids are super healthy they're both doing well at school.

"Cadel is just about 12, Zara’s just about 14, [partner] Tegan has been great with me, everything's going well.

"When you're enjoying your personal life so much and obviously the car’s performing well, and [Tickford] are a great bunch of guys to work with.

"The results have been quite good, so it's nice. I don't want to retire yet."

Courtney claimed three top 10 finishes across the five Townsville races in Townsville, despite carrying an undiagnosed broken shoulder.

He said he has used the break in the 2021 season to recover from the injury.

Having displayed strong pace throughout the season, the veteran poked fun at Russell Ingall about being an old hand in the sport.

"I remember when I came back to Supercars and my teammate was Russell Ingall," Courtney said.

"At the time I remember thinking, 'He's old, why doesn’t he give it up and let some young guys come through'.

"Now, I'm feeling just what Russell was feeling!

Courtney celebrates his 2010 title

"While we have got limited testing and crazy schedules, it helps me; because of the experience, I can stay in the sport a little bit longer.

"Our sport is very unique in the way that I don't think we're affected as much by age as what other sports like NRL and AFL are.

"We can sort of race for longer into our mid-40s, perhaps, and not be as affected as much physically.

"I'm sure at some point they're going to say, 'Righto James, you’ve had enough, shut it down'. But for the next few years, we'll keep going.

"Then we might make a big hurrah and swan song, or maybe I just won't to tell anyone and just disappear and be never seen again."

Courtney is ninth in the 2021 standings, the second-highest Tickford driver behind third-placed teammate Cameron Waters.

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