Supercars the top priority

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 12/07/2016
  • By Kassie Gadeke

2010 Supercars Champion James Courtney says staying in the category next year is “100 per cent” his preference, though he is also looking at opportunities overseas.

The current Holden Racing Team driver had a timely second place finish on Sunday in Townsville – the same day he spoke publicly about entertaining options other than Supercars for 2017.

Both Courtney and current teammate Garth Tander have contracts expiring at the end of the season, and now young gun Scott McLaughlin has been snapped up, they are the biggest names unconfirmed for next year.

Courtney told supercars.com his manager Alan Gow would present him with options when the time was right, but he is still focused on his goal of winning with HRT if it’s possible.

“I set myself a goal six years ago to win the Championship here at HRT and I’m yet to do that – so my first priority is to do that,” Courtney said.

“That’s what I’d really like to be able to do and be given the opportunity to do – we’re currently working through all that and we'll see how we go.”

The accomplished racer, who started full-time in Supercars in 2006 replacing Marcos Ambrose at Stone Brothers Racing said he was considering “everything at the moment”.

“I’m just taking it all in, there’s opportunities to do some other stuff,” he said.

“Someone said NASCAR, which I laughed at because I’m not interested at all! It’d be more of a sports car program, what I was doing previously before I came back.

“So it’s all there, I’m just waiting on seeing what’s happening with the current team I’m with and once I get all my potential options in place we’ll make a decision.”

HRT is still waiting to renew its deal with Holden, but Courtney says the team isn’t his only chance to race a Supercar in ’17.

“There’s been quite a bit of interest, so it’s been good,” he said.

“It shows that when the results haven’t been fantastic people recognise that it’s not solely down to Garth and I.

“But Alan takes quite a nice handsome piece of what I earn to make these decisions and do all this chat so he’s in charge of that and just says to me, ‘there’s quite a few options, there’s nothing to worry about and we’ll decide when we have to’, so I’m just cruising along.”

Courtney’s second place on Sunday made for one of the year’s best finishes, as he dragged defending champion Mark Winterbottom on the straight to finish just 0.03sec ahead of the Ford Falcon FG X and steal second.

The result was the 36-year old’s first podium finish since winning the second race at the Clipsal 500 in March.

Since then, the HRT has been under enormous pressure to perform – the result was a much-needed upturn for the squad.

“Apart from cleaning up the Championship and knowing that it’s happening through the race, that’s probably the next best thing having crazy speed on everyone and just coming through,” he said. 

“The enjoyment side of the driving has been quite few and far between this year.

“It has been not only tough on myself, but on my family because I’m a man, so you take your problems home and voice them on everyone around you, that’s what we do. That’s been tough.

“Garth as well – we’ve both been slogging away as well as everyone in the team and waiting for results.

“So it did come at a good time to relieve and hopefully shows everyone we’ve still got it. The way we work strategically as a team in the races is very, very strong, the stops are pretty good – there was a mistake on Garth’s car on the weekend, but it’s quite rare we have a drama in the stops.”

The team was docked 30 championship points and fined $3000 for a wheel nut rolling through the fast lane during Tander’s stop, and car #2 had to double stack in the pits behind Courtney. But qualifying in the top 10 is a positive for Tander, who has struggled to qualify well in recent times but often powers through the pack.

Starting from 10th was his best effort since his home track Perth, three events prior to Townsville. 

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