Holden Racing Team star driver James Courtney believes six-time champ Jamie Whincup is concerned about one of his young rivals.
Shane van Gisbergen came on strong at the end of last year, trumping seasoned competitors Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes in the fight for second position in the Championship in his Triple Eight built Holden Commodore VF.
Standout performances in the wet weather, a flair for a fast lap in qualifying and a heartbreaking end to the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 have reminded fans of V8 Supercars just how talented the 25-year old kiwi is – and 2010 Champion Courtney believes Whincup has also taken notice.
“I think the last part of the year, van Gisbergen probably rattled Whincup a little,” Courtney said in a Holden Racing Team video.
“He’s in the same machinery and he’s outperformed him quite a few times towards the end of the year – that’ll be playing on his mind over the off-season.”
Courtney was the last racer to topple Whincup for the Championship in a tight final race at the Sydney 500 in 2010.Then racing for Dick Johnson Racing, he was behind the wheel of a Triple Eight built Ford Falcon FG, and has since been outspoken about Whincup being beatable.
“I race against him like every other guy,” Courtney said.
“I’ve been pretty vocal about saying I don’t think he’s the messiah and all that sort of stuff. I think his team does an amazing job and delivers him a great product. Obviously he’s done a better job than his teammate Craig [Lowndes] over the last few years, that’s why he has won it.”
Under the guidance of Adrian Burgess – former team manager of Red Bull Racing Australia, a switch that inflamed an already strong rivalry between the two Holden teams – HRT has strengthened, with three race wins last year and two achieved by Courtney, who won the season opening Clipsal 500 for the first time in 2014.
A tough endurance season with Greg Murphy was a blow to Courtney’s Championship standing, after sitting in fourth place for much of the mid-season.
But the 34-year old assured fans HRT would be back in the game in 2015, with his and teammate Garth Tander’s sights on the Championship title.
“We’re working on getting our car as good as theirs [Red Bull’s],” he said.
“And both Garth and myself are the last two guys to beat him [Whincup] to the Championship.
“So he’s not unbeatable, we’ve done it – and I think six is enough!”
Click here to relive Courtney’s emphatic win out of the box at the Clipsal 500 in 2014.
The season kicks off this weekend with the two-day Sydney.com SuperTest – it is free for fans to attend, with Park and View and corporate options also available at Sydney Motorsport Park. Click here for more information.