COURTNEY EXPECTS TO BE COMPETITIVE ON 'SPRINT' & 'CONTROL' TYRES AT HIDDEN VALLEY TUESDAY, JUNE 8: New V8 Supercar Championship leader James Courtney expects his form surge will be unaffected by a revised tyre format when the series resumes in...
COURTNEY EXPECTS TO BE COMPETITIVE ON 'SPRINT' & 'CONTROL' TYRES AT HIDDEN VALLEY
TUESDAY, JUNE 8: New V8 Supercar Championship leader James Courtney expects his form surge will be unaffected by a revised tyre format when the series resumes in the Northern Territory next week.
"I've won races on soft and hard-compound tyres so there's no reason why I can't be competitive on both types of rubber in the 'Top End'," said the Jim Beam Racing Ford Falcon driver.
"It's possible we might clear out and run away from them again, regardless of what tyres we're on. My team has momentum from four wins in a row so the pressure is back on the others to see what they can do."
Courtney rocketed to the championship lead in May after winning all four races in the past two events at Queensland Raceway near Ipswich and at Winton in Victoria when all cars were fitted with Dunlop's soft-compound 'sprint' tyres.
However, the seventh championship event on the 2.9km Hidden Valley track near Darwin from June 18-20 will feature a mixture of durable 'control' tyres and 'sprint' rubber.
"I'm not worried by the change," said Courtney. "In fact, I'm feeling excited and keen to go because I had good pace on hard tyres early this season before my wins at Queensland Raceway and Winton."
All 29 Falcons and Commodores will race exclusively on 'control' tyres in the opening 120km race at Hidden Valley. In the second race over 200km each car will be allocated one set of 'sprint' tyres, in addition to using 'control' rubber.
Courtney's past results on 'control' tyres include championship race wins at Queensland Raceway in 2008 and Townsville and Sydney in 2009, three Bathurst 1000 podiums, plus a non-championship victory in the V8 Supercar event at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in March.
This year the JELD-WEN sponsored driver also had podium finishes on 'control' tyres at Adelaide and Hamilton in New Zealand, and was second in the championship points before his four wins on 'sprint' rubber.
Courtney leads the series by 114 points ahead of defending champion Jamie Whincup, who is followed by Team Vodafone Commodore team-mate Craig Lowndes, Shane Van Gisbergen in a SP Tools Falcon, and Garth Tander from the Holden Racing Team.
"Hidden Valley has a long straight (1.1km) so top-end speed is important, and you need the car to flow through the tight corners in the back section," said Courtney. "I've never finished on the podium there (Hidden Valley) before, but it was the same scenario before Winton a few weeks ago and I won."
Courtney said he was relishing the battle for the this year's title, and the opportunity to challenge for another trophy to add to his two world karting championships, British Formula Ford and Japanese Formula 3 titles, and a race win at the 2003 Macau Grand Prix.
"I've led various championships before so it's not something new for me," said the 29-year-old Gold Coast-based driver.
"There is still a long way to go, but right now it's better to be coming first than anywhere else because the others have to take risks to catch up. They know if they make mistakes they're going to drop big points and fall further behind."
Courtney believes Holden's leading teams are now under additional pressure because Ford began the championship as underdogs following Team Vodafone's off-season switch from racing Falcons to Commodores, plus Holden's numerical strength (the grid comprises 19 Commodores and 10 Falcons).
"Before the season started many were saying Holden would dominate, but here we are a few months later and a Falcon is leading the points," said Courtney.
"Our team didn't make big predictions - we just put our heads down and worked hard, and so far it's paying off. The Ford fans tell me they are loving it the way we are taking up the fight to all those Holdens, and making the competition as close as ever."