The reign of V8 Supercars champion James Courtney looks set to be an unhappy phase in the life of the former Jaguar F1 test driver, with the Australian’s title defence season quickly looking set to be the worst in the sport’s history.
The phenomenon known as a ‘championship hangover’ is not uncommon in motorsport, and Courtney’s appalling weekend at the last round at Winton was another nail in the coffin of the tough first season he is enduring with the TOLL HRT Holden outfit after switching from Dick Johnson Racing (with whom he won his 2010 championship) in the off-season in a multi-million-dollar deal.
Courtney qualified well outside the top-ten in both races and his Sunday race was blown asunder by being involved in a multi-car collision that saw him limp home to finish 25th. He now lies 13th overall in the Drivers’ Championship standings, a mammoth 618 points (more than the equivalent of a full points’ haul at two race weekends) behind championship leader Jamie Whincup. Courtney now needs a miracle to get in the championship hunt.
Despite winning the second race of the season-opening round at Abu Dhabi – his only podium result this season – Courtney has had a run of bad luck and suffered from poor qualifying pace. Of the 11 races to-date in 2011, he’s enjoyed just three top-five finishes and finished 20th or lower four times.
He was also hit with a 50-point penalty for colliding with Jason Bargwanna in Race 1 at Abu Dhabi, although this would hardy make a difference to his standing in the championship, as he’d only move up one place to 12th.
In the history of the sport, no defending series champion (to have completed a full year after taking the title) has finished outside the top-ten in the Drivers’ Championship standings – the worst was Russell Ingall’s championship defence in 2006 when he finished eighth.
The same year also marked Courtney’s full-time debut in the V8 Supercars Championship series with Stone Brothers Racing, and that was the only season where Courtney finished outside the top-ten in the standings.
[Images via TOLL HRT]
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