Stars' Cars: James Courtney’s motoring life
V8 SUPERCARS driver James Courtney's life reads like a movie script at times.
World Kart champion, British Formula Ford champion, Formula 3 prodigy and Formula One test driver all before the age of 23: not bad for a lad from Penrith.
Then the high speed F1 testing accident which could have killed him - and one Michael Schumacher helping him in the immediate aftermath - followed by a long recovery and ultimate return to Australia to become V8 Supercars champ in 2010.
Regarded as one of the finest Australian drivers of his generation, James has recently reaffirmed his position as one of our toughest battlers. A freak pit lane accident in August left him with broken ribs and a punctured lung, forcing him to miss this year's Bathurst 1000. But he battled through pain to brilliantly win on his racing return last month at the Gold Coast 600.
The Holden Racing Team ace took time to speak about his motoring life away from the race track before this weekend's Auckland rounds.
What was your first car?
A 1979 Datsun 1200 ute when I was 17. I had it resprayed silver from its original beige, fitted a (Toyota) 4A-GZE engine and put on bigger wheels. I sold it when I went overseas.
What are you driving now?
I have Holden's Insignia VXR, Colorado and Commodore Sportwagon (the perks of driving for Holden Racing Team). The Colorado is great for putting the dogs in the back, while I'll use the Insignia VXR or Commodore for getting to Sydney from the Gold Coast as they're such comfortable drives. I'm impressed with the Insignia VXR, its feel on the road is awesome.
What cars did your family have while you were growing up?
I remember dad had a 1980s Ford F-100 and mum had a little Beamer (BMW). We then had a VN Commodore wagon for a long time, and then dad got a ute when we got a bit older.
What's the worst car you've ever driven?
The Citroen Cactus in New Zealand. It looks horrendous and the gearbox was a nightmare. The air bumps on the body are "interesting".
What is your greatest frustration on the road?
People sitting in the right-hand lane doing 20kmh under the speed limit. In Europe they'd be rammed off the road.
Do you have any preferred driving music?
Cruisy stuff really, like Jack Johnson, Damien Rice, Daryl Braithwaite. My daughter (Zara) has worked out how to bluetooth into the car stereo now though, so there's some Miley Cyrus at times, unfortunately.
If you were to pick anyone in the world to go on a road trip, who would it be and why?
That's a good question. I like to laugh so anyone who's funny. Will Ferrell or Chris Rock would be good, and although he's dead, Chris Farley would have been hilarious on a road trip.
What's your favourite place in the world to drive?
Anywhere in Italy. I just love it there, it's amazing. The Amalfi Coast especially is very picturesque to drive along. When I lived in Italy I rode a scooter everywhere, while my team boss back then had the (Mercedes- Benz) E36 AMG.
You've had a few significant incidents and accidents on the race track in your career, what's your road record like?
Touch wood it's been pretty good on the road: no big shunts or anything. The only kind of road crash I've had was inside a race circuit's perimeter. I managed to go through a fence and into a tree.
What would be your dream car if money were no object?
I'm pretty cruisy on the road, so a Rolls- Royce Phantom, Wraith or Ghost would be good. I'm not a speed man on the road; I do enough of that at work.
Who: James Courtney
Born: June 29, 1980, Penrith, NSW.
Resume: A karting prodigy, James was 1995 Junior World Kart Champion and 1997 World Formula A Kart Champion. While based in the UK he secured the 2000 British Formula Ford Championship, leading to a British F3 drive and test driver role with the Jaguar Formula One team. A 306kmh accident at the Monza Grand Prix circuit in 2002 - when the rear suspension failed on his Jaguar F1 car - caused James serious injuries, effectively ending a potential career in F1.
He became 2003 Japanese F3 champion, before a return to Australia in 2005 as an HRT V8 Supercar Endurance driver. He won his first V8 Supercars race in 2008, before securing the 2010 V8 Supercars championship with Jim Beam Racing after five race wins. A move to Toll Holden Racing Team followed in 2011, and James has to date scored 13 V8 Supercar wins, including a fairytale victory at the Gold Coast 600 last month after once again returning from serious injury.