COURTNEY PLACES EQUAL IMPORTANCE ON BATHURST AND CHAMPIONSHIP WIN
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27: V8 Supercar Championship leader James Courtney is placing equal importance on a breakthough first win in the Bathurst 1000 race next week as eventually claiming the 2010 series title.
"Bathurst is the biggest race in V8 Supercars so you don't hold back for anything," said the Jim Beam Racing Ford Falcon driver.
"The championship is also very important for different reasons, but I'm not going to Bathurst just to cruise around and protect my lead in the points."
"I'm going there to win. I've been on the podium three times (from five starts) at Bathurst, but never on the top step, and that's something I want to change!"
"It's hard to split which is the most important between Bathurst or the championship. If you win either it's a great year, but if you win both it's a fantastic year!"
Courtney has made five previous starts in the 1,000km endurance race at Mount Panorama, and his best results to date were second in 2007 and third in 2006 and 2008.
The 30-year-old will share an FG Falcon in this year's race with fellow Gold Coast-based driver Warren Luff, a veteran of eight starts on the 6.2km Mount Panorama circuit.
Courtney goes into the 10th round of this year's championship from October 7-10 with a 179-point lead over Jamie Whincup, who will drive a Team Vodafone Commodore with Steve Owen.
Assessing the 161-lap Bathurst race, Courtney said he expected the result would be decided by a frantic sprint between the leading drivers in the closing stint.
However, the JELD-WEN sponsored driver said it was equally important for Luff and him to maintain consistent lap times during the early and middle stages of the race to ensure a position in the front group to press for the win in the closing laps.
"You spend most of the race staying calm and calculating your fuel economy, and getting through all the pit stops and driver changes without any dramas," he said.
"The aim is to look after the car and keep circulating with the front pack, regardless of weather changes, Safety Car periods and anything else that happens along the way."
"Then, after the last pitstops everything goes crazy - that's the time all the theory and tactics go out the window and you just drive flat out to the finish."
"We probably take more risks than we should, but that's why we are racing cars for a living and not working behind the counter at the corner shop!"
Courtney's three podium results at Bathurst all involved close finishes, especially in 2007 when he was runner-up and just 0.624-seconds behind the race-winning Team Vodafone Falcon driven by Whincup and Craig Lowndes.
"It started to rain and we were sliding all over the place, but there was no holding back because it's Bathurst and it's the race we all want to win," he said.
Courtney expects his main opposition this year to come from Whincup and Owen, Lowndes and Mark Skaife in a Team Vodafone Commodore, Ford Performance Racing pair Mark Winterbottom and Luke Youlden, Garth Tander and Cameron McConville from the Holden Racing Team, and Lee Holdsworth and David Besnard in a Fujitsu Commodore.
"It's an open race, like every year, but the usual strong teams will be up there, and there could be a few others pushing for the podium - the likes of Russell (Ingall), Rick Kelly, and Michael Caruso," he said.
Courtney said he was not discouraged by finishing 12th in the lead-up Phillip Island 500 endurance race in Victoria on September 12.
"We have always struggled with car set-up at that track, but car-speed has never been a problem at Bathurst and I expect us to be right on the pace" he said.
Jim Beam Racing completed preparation for Bathurst with a test at Queensland Raceway on September 23.
Courtney has recorded four race wins, three second places, a third, and a total of 12 top five results in the 17 races held to date in this year's championship.
The opening practice sessions at Mount Panorama will be on October 7, with qualifying the following day, and the Top 10 Shoot Out on October 9.