WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22: Deposed V8 Supercar champion James Courtney believes restoring Adelaide's Clipsal 500 as the series' opening event next week is a winning move for the category.
"Everywhere I go our fans and supporters tell me it's great to be back starting in Adelaide again, and I agree with them," said the Holden Racing Team driver and 2010 champion.
"This event is a big show for crowds and atmosphere, and the street circuit with concrete walls always produces action - it's entertainment-plus for everyone and kick-starts the season with a bang!"
The Adelaide V8 Supercar event began in 1998 and was the traditional opening round until the past two years when the series started in Abu Dhabi, which in 2012 switches to November.
Courtney, refreshed by an off-season relaxing at home on the Gold Coast with wife Carys, daughter Zara, and son Cadel, said Adelaide's suitability for the championship opener from March 1-4 was reflected by consistent large crowds, including 270,880 in 2011.
"Overseas races like Abu Dhabi are important to grow our international television audience and attract more manufacturers," said Courtney.
"However, there is extra hype when the season starts, and we should give our 'local' fans first chance to see the new cars and team changes. Adelaide does that, as we've seen before."
"For the drivers the first race of the season is like going back to school after holidays."
"I always laugh when I hear drivers say they're going to work their way into it, because once the lights go green everything goes crazy and there are 28 cars battling like it's a war-zone."
"But that's why I love racing in this championship - it's never easy and if you win you know you've achieved something."
The 2012 Adelaide round comprises two 250km races, as in past years. All cars will be fitted with Dunlop's durable 'control' tyres for qualifying and the races.
Courtney, who finished 10th in the 2011 series and was deposed as champion by Whincup, said he was determined to make a success of his second successive year with HRT.
"Results-wise last season (2011) didn't work out as planned, apart from a race win in Abu Dhabi, but we made a lot of gains behind-the-scenes which will help this year," said the 31-year-old.
The JELD-WEN sponsored driver respects Team Vodafone, who finished one-two in the 2011 championship with Whincup and team-mate Craig Lowndes, but does not rate them unbeatable.
"I beat them for the championship two years ago, so they are beatable," said Courtney.
"The key is keeping them under pressure. They make mistakes just like anyone else, as we saw a couple of times in my championship season."
Courtney is yet to win a race in Adelaide, but has finished second on three occasions since his debut on the 2.5km street circuit in 2006.
However, the Gold Coast-based driver is encouraged by HRT's past success in Adelaide, with team-mate Garth Tander winning both races in 2010 and one race the following year.
"I've usually had good pace in Adelaide, and HRT know how to win there so hopefully we can pull it all together this year," he said.
"This event tests your fitness because heat gets trapped between the concrete barriers and the in-car temperature gets up around 60-degrees."
Courtney said he enjoyed the off-season relaxing with his family.
"Both our kids had birthdays and it's been great to kick back and enjoy some family time before we start racing again," he said.
Courtney's preparation for Adelaide and the 2012 championship includes two days of off-season testing with HRT at Sandown in Melbourne and at Winton in Victoria.