COURTNEY WINS CHAMPIONSHIP AFTER SEASON-LONG BATTLE
Jim Beam Racing Ford Falcon driver James Courtney today won his first V8 Supercar Championship title by finishing 14th in the final race of the series in Sydney.
The 30-year-old claimed the title by 65 points over Jamie Whincup (Team Vodafone) after a season-long battle which was decided in today's second race of the 14th and final round.
Courtney scored 63 championship points for his result at Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush and increased his total to 3,055. Whincup, champion the previous two years, finished fifth in today's 74-lap race and ended the series with 2,990 points.
During the 26-race championship Courtney had five wins, three second places, a third, and a total of 16 top-five results. He is the first driver from Dick Johnson Racing to claim the title since John Bowe won in 1995, also in a Ford Falcon.
Courtney made his championship debut in the 2005 endurance races at Sandown and Bathurst. He has raced fulltime in the series since 2006 and his best previous championship finish was sixth in 2008.
The JELD-WEN sponsored driver went into today's race with a 113-point lead and needed to finish no lower than 22nd to clinch the championship.
Courtney, whose FG Falcon was badly damaged in a crash in yesterday's first race at Homebush, qualified 12 for today's race and was 15th in the opening laps. He made his first pit-stop on lap 22, but a delay changing the right-rear wheel dropped him back to 26th. He made further pit stops on laps 27 and 52.
Before racing V8 Supercars, Courtney was based overseas for a decade and won two karting world championships, British Formula Ford and Japanese Formula 3 titles, and was also a Jaguar Formula One test driver. He was born in Penrith in NSW and now lives on the Gold Coast.
Qualifying - Race 2: 12th (best lap 1-min 29.483-secs)
Race 2 Result (74 laps): 14th (best lap 1-min 30.300-secs)
Fastest lap of race: Craig Lowndes (Team Vodafone) 1-min 29.390-secs
COURTNEY QUOTES: "It's a great feeling to finally be champion after such a long season. We started back in February, and since then so much has happened on and off the track. I'm just happy to come out the other end with the most points. Jamie (Whincup) and I have both had our 'ups and downs'. He led the early part of the championship, then I got to the front and it's been a good battle. Our team put in a big effort to win this thing, and I'm very grateful to them and our sponsors and supporters. This weekend was like the whole season - you never knew what to expect next. My crew were working until 3am this morning fixing my car after yesterday's big crash. Today's race was about getting the job done, which I found harder than going all-out for the win. We had a problem with a rattle-gun changing a wheel in the first pit-stop, and that cost us time, but we got it back with Safety Cars. I was cruising in the last stint, keeping out of trouble because I knew if I held position it would be enough."
CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after round 14/final): James Courtney (Ford) 3,055; Jamie Whincup (Holden) 2,990; Mark Winterbottom (Ford) 2,729; Craig Lowndes (Holden) 2,669; Garth Tander (Holden) 2,466