Courtney Hopes For Mid-Season Form Surge At Phillip Island Next Week
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9: V8 Supercar champion James Courtney hopes next week's L&H 500 at Phillip Island in Victoria will provide a mid-season turnaround to the disappointing results that have put the brakes on his 2011 campaign.
And the Toll Holden Racing Team driver believes Cameron McConville is an ideal team-mate to kick-start a form surge in the endurance events at Phillip Island (September 16-18) and the following Supercheap Auto 1000 at Bathurst (October 6-9).
Courtney's title defence began on a high with a race win in the championship opener in Abu Dhabi in February, but he has since dropped to 21st position after eight of the 14 rounds.
"Phillip Island is the first endurance race so it's like a fresh start to the season, and a chance to get back up the front which is where HRT and I want to be," he said.
"So many things have gone wrong this year it's unbelievable."
"I've made mistakes, there have been penalties in races and some issues with the car, plus I've been caught up in accidents by being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"The championship has gone for me, but winning the endurance races would turn a bad year into a great year so that's my short-term focus."
The 30-year-old JELD-WEN sponsored driver tested with HRT at the Winton circuit in Victoria earlier this week in preparation for the endurance events.
"Our team has made some important 'hardware' changes with the cars that will benefit us in the future," he said. "We are working hard on set-ups and learning how to get the most out of the cars."
Courtney said the 4.5km Phillip Island circuit and Victoria's variable weather would present unique challenges next week.
"You need the car to work well through the long, high-speed corners, and you have to be able to adapt to weather changes," he said.
"Phillip Island in September can mean four seasons in one day, and if it rains it might turn the race into a lottery because all the pre-race planning and strategy goes out the window."
Courtney believes teaming up with McConville will assist him in the endurance races.
"Cameron has plenty of experience and knows what it's all about," said Courtney. "He raced fulltime in the championship for almost 10 years and he's won races."
"In testing he's been very competitive, and we're a similar size so nothing needs to be changed with the seat position or anything else for us both to be comfortable in the car."
McConville retired from fulltime driving in the championship in 2009, and the following year (2010) he joined HRT for the endurance events and teamed with Garth Tander to win the first of the two races in the Gold Coast 600.
"Cameron has raced for HRT before and that helps because he knows how everything operates," said Courtney.
McConville made his Bathurst debut in 1993 and his best results in the race to date were finishing second in 1999 with Craig Lowndes, and again in 2009 with Jason Richards. Courtney's highest finish at Mount Panorama is also second, in 2007 with David Besnard.