With a break between Winton and Darwin, supercars.com is analysing the drivers’ results and performances in this first part of the season. The racing is the closest in history, with nine different winners in 11 races.
James Courtney, Holden Racing Team Engineer: Alistair McVean
Average qualifying position: 12.1 Average finishing position: 11.8 Championship position: 11 Points to leader: 327 Wins: 1 Pole positions: 0
Best result: Win Clipsal Race 2; awesome battle with Whincup
Low point: Winton. He qualified eighth for race one but it was all downhill from there.
For: James Courtney’s win in Race Two at the Clipsal 500 was a reminder of just how talented he is and how ferociously committed he can be.
Give him a sniff in a competitive car and he surely ranks as the equal of any Supercars driver out there.
He was 7km/h an hour faster through the fiercesome Turn 8 on the last lap of that epic battle with Jamie Whincup. Seven kilometres an hour... Mind boggling.
Courtney contributes out of the car too. When he is up and about he is just about the best media performer in pitlane, combining emotion, a champion’s arrogant self-confidence and an entertaining turn of phrase with insights that lift the lid just a little on what is going on behind the red wall.
A firing Courtney in a competitive Holden Racing Team Commodore vying for the championship with the likes of Winterbottom, Whincup, McLaughlin, Lowndes and van Gisbergen would be a treat we’d like to see.
He’d stick it to them in the car – James doesn’t mind a bit of physical racing - and he’d certainly be as verbally belligerent as any of his opponents. Just ask Will Davison.
Against: Unfortunately, there seems little prospect of Courtney emerging as a championship contender in 2016.
The sight of him slumped and disappointed on the pitlane wall at Winton after qualifying 20th spoke volumes.
The official telling him to move on just added insult to injury.
The HRT Commodores VFs are just not consistently good enough in qualifying and across the full gamut of race tracks to make Courtney more than an occasional player at the front of the field.
If you are being picky you could question the wisdom of not backing out of that fight with waters at Winton, but that is not Courtney’s way, especially as he had just been shouldered off the road.
Considering what he has gone through in recent years with the Premat t-bone in 2013 and the crazy helicopter incident last year that is still impeding him physically, no-one deserves another run at the championship more.
Unfortunately, motorsport results are not built on sentiment or a sense of justice.
The team: As with Tander, Courtney has been at HRT a long time now and had has the chance to influence the direction the team has taken.
So he has to take some responsibility for the car he is driving, which is only sporadically competitive.
Where the team does excel is in strategy. Courtney’s engineer Al McVean is one of the smartest blokes in pitlane.
But there’s no doubt wins based on car speed rather than strategy smarts is what everyone at Clayton is striving for.