The build-up to the Melbourne 400 round of the 2020 Supercars Championship season has been rocked by James Courtney’s decision to quit the Team Sydney operation, just days after the outfit’s poor showing at the season-opening Adelaide 500.
The 2010 series champion’s future in the sport was confirmed with his decision to headline the driving line-up of the revamped TEKNO Autosports squad, which would relocate from the Gold Coast to Sydney as part of a New South Wales government and Supercars backed plan to create a motorsport hub at Sydney Motorsport Park.
The underfunded team’s presence on the 2020 grid looked to be in serious doubt during the off-season amidst an ownership dispute between TEKNO’s Jonathon Webb and external investor Rod Salmon, with the latter eventually pulling his support.
The Courtney / TEKNO partnership finally appeared to be locked in for the 2020 season, with Courtney presenting a Coca-Cola livered Holden Commodore at the series’ pre-season launch in Sydney. His teammate Chris Pither was confirmed at the eleventh hour ahead of the Adelaide 500.
Courtney benefited further from an additional late personal sponsorship deal with Boost Mobile, with his car rebranded and re-liveried during the Adelaide 500 weekend. Although he showed glimpses of speed in practice that suggested the squad could in fact return to midfield competitiveness, neither he nor Pither was able to carry that into the weekend’s two races.
In the end, the partnership between Courtney and Team Sydney proved to be short-lived, with the driver taking to social media at the end of February to announce his immediate departure from the squad.
“We have not been able to agree on the way forward, so I have decided to depart the team. I wish Team Sydney all the best for the future,” Courtney said in his statement.
Swiftly following his announcement was confirmation from Boost Mobile that it would not continue its branding of the ex-Courtney Team Sydney Holden.
Neither Courtney nor Team Sydney has provided any further public statements on the background to the split, although the latter has publicly committed that it will field two cars for the remainder of the season and announce the identity of Courtney’s replacement in due course.
The most information has come from Boost Mobile CEO and long-time Courtney ally Peter Adderton, who is himself no stranger to controversy in the Supercars world. Adderton’s decision not to renew its sponsorship of the Garry Rogers Motorsport squad due to his dissatisfaction with Supercars’ direction on the 2020 technical regulations led to the squad withdrawing from the series altogether.
In a post to Instagram, Adderton continued his axe-grinding at Supercars while also describing the Team Sydney project as a “national embarrassment”.
“This team is ill-prepared, underfunded, and, frankly Team Sydney is a national embarrassment to the sport,” he wrote.
“As someone who grew up in western Sydney … this is so sad to see.
“It also has me now questioning if they allow this to continue, [Supercars senior] management along with [New South Wales] and [Sydney Motorsport Park], if they don’t step in and give it to a team that will commit to guaranteed funding. A senior team who has the management and staff to support it, and cars that are not made from the spare parts division of [Triple Eight].
“Nothing against Tekno, for sure they tried. But it’s time to move on … as a Sydney motorsport fan this is killing me.”
The short-term future of Team Sydney remains unclear. It faces a fine of $150,000 for each event per entry that it misses from here on, which would lead to the withdrawal of one or both of its Racing Entitlement Contracts.
Image via Team Sydney / Boost Mobile
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