COURTNEY WARY OF VARIABLE WEATHER AT PHILLIP ISLAND V8 Supercar Championship leader James Courtney is wary Victoria's variable weather could be crucial to the outcome of next week's Phillip Island 500 endurance race. Courtney will drive a Jim...
COURTNEY WARY OF VARIABLE WEATHER AT PHILLIP ISLAND
V8 Supercar Championship leader James Courtney is wary Victoria's variable weather could be crucial to the outcome of next week's Phillip Island 500 endurance race.
Courtney will drive a Jim Beam Racing FG Ford Falcon with Warren Luff, and is keen to consolidate his 120-point lead over Jamie Whincup (Team Vodafone) in the ninth round from September 10-12.
"Phillip Island in September can mean four seasons in one day, and it might turn the race into a lottery," said the 30-year-old Gold Coast-based driver.
"In 2008 it rained near the end of the race and when that happens all the usual plans and pit stop strategy goes out the window."
"If the weather changes you may have to suddenly switch tyres to whatever suits the track conditions, and the team that adapts best usually comes away with the win."
The Philip Island event ends a nine-week mid-season break and Courtney and Luff completed pre-race preparations with a three-day fitness team camp on the Gold Coast from August 27-29, and a test session at Queensland Raceway on August 31.
"I had holidays in New Zealand and Fiji during the break, so the 'boot camp' blew out the cobwebs and sharpened me up again," said Courtney.
The camp included road cycling, with a 25km hillclimb, a 30km mountain bike ride, a duathlon, and a series of high-stress drills aimed to enhance endurance and foster teamwork under pressure.
Courtney drove 70 laps in his team's test at Queensland Raceway, and recorded a best lap time of 1-minute 10.86-seconds. The time was just 0.28-seconds outside the race lap record he set on the way to winning the first race in the championship round on the 3.1km circuit in May.
"We weren't chasing quick lap times at the test, but it's good to know the speed is there," said Courtney.
"During the day we worked mostly on car set-up, and practised pit-stops and driver changes to get everyone into endurance racing mode."
The JELD-WEN sponsored driver's championship results this year include four wins, three second places, and a third from 16 race starts. He has finished in the top five in 12 races.
In 2009 Courtney finished fourth in the Phillip Island endurance race, driving with his fulltime championship team-mate Steven Johnson
This year fulltime championship drivers cannot race together in the endurance events, but Courtney said he was confident in Luff's capabilities.
"Warren may not race in the championship, but he has plenty of V8 Supercar experience and will be as competitive as any of the co-drivers," said Courtney.
Luff has contested V8 Supercar endurance races the past eight years, and in 2009 finished sixth in the 500km race at Phillip Island driving a Jim Beam Racing Falcon with Jonathon Webb.
In 2004 Luff contested a full championship season with Dick Johnson Racing, and since then he has combined V8 Supercar endurance driving with competing successfully in other categories.
The 34-year-old's race results this year include victories in the Australian Six-Hour at Eastern Creek in July and a Mini Challenge round at Queensland Raceway. He is also part of the Hollywood Stunt Driver team at Dreamworld theme park on the Gold Coast, and he road tests high performance vehicles for 'Motor' magazine.
"I'm driving cars three to four days a week which keeps my reflexes sharp, plus I've had some good testing in the V8 Supercar this year," said Luff.
"This is my third year in a row with the same team at the endurance races, and that helps because I know everyone and understand how things work."
"People ask if I feel extra pressure because James is leading the championship, but I see it more as an opportunity because the car will be the best the team can make it. They are doing everything they can to win a championship so I'm in a great position."
NOTE: Courtney has three successive top-three podium finishes in the Bathurst 1000 with part-time V8 Supercar drivers - third in 2006 with Glenn Seton, and second in 2007 and third in 2008 with David Besnard.