Future in doubt for Supercars champ as Sydney team reportedly crumbles
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The 2020 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship driver line-up is almost fully locked in, following yet another chaotic 'silly season'.
Kelly Racing has downsized to just two cars (now Ford Mustangs instead of Nissans), Brad Jones Racing has signed on Todd Hazelwood and Jack Smith leaving Tim Slade to partner Scott McLaughlin for the enduros, Garry Rogers Motorsport has left the building, Chaz Mostert has left Tickford Racing to take up a lead driver role at Walkinshaw Andretti United ... it's a total madhouse.
But perhaps the most interesting silly season quandry of the lot though has been the plan for a new Western Sydney–based Holden team to join the series with the assistance of Supercars and Tekno Autosports. It was an incentive designed to increase interest in the sport from Sydney, and it kicked off with a bang when 2010 series champ James Courtney was confirmed as the team's first driver. But since then things have been awfully quiet.
Until this morning that is. Australian motorsport outlet Auto Action has reported that the team is “dead” following an ownership dispute stalemate between the squad's owners over who has rights to the concept. It's been reported that there's a deadline later this month for the team to resolve its issues, but that seems unlikely following months of rumour around 'Team Sydney'.
Courtney debuted in Supercars on a full-time basis in 2006, following stints as a test driver for Jaguar's Formula 1 team and Toyota's Super GT team in Japan — as well as a 2005 endurance campaign as a co-driver with the Holden Racing Team. After five seasons of trying, he claimed his maiden championship crown while driving for an embattled Dick Johnson Racing in 2010 — famously breaking Jamie Whincup's streak of titles in dramatic circumstances.
Since then he's driven with Walkinshaw Andretti United (formerly HRT), with again mixed results as the team weathered rough waters. Holden pulled the bulk of its factory backing, and wins were few and far between. Things did look on the rise in 2019 though, with Courtney scooping up a memorable Bathurst 1000 podium with Jack Perkins on his way to 11th in the standings.
It may seem odd to fathom given that 2006 doesn't feel all that long ago, but at 39-years-old Courtney is currently the oldest driver on the Supercars grid. It's been reported that he's now actively chasing a co-driver role for the 2020 endurance season, with a slot as co-driver to Walkinshaw replacement Mostert rumoured by Auto Action.
As for Team Sydney, it's suspected that they won't make it onto the Supercars grid until 2021. Tekno Autosports is commited to running a car in the series regardless, which may force the team to rush a replacement driver and sponsor package at this 11th hour. It was rumoured during the 2019 series finale that Garry Rogers Motorsport could even step up and run the new team, but that speculation seems to have evaporated.
One hopes that a resolution is found — not only to ensure a 24-car grid for this coming season, but to also ensure that one of the grittiest racers on the grid gets the chance to eventually bow out on their own teams.