James Courtney has described his thoughts about his time at Walkinshaw Andretti United as ‘hard to put into words’ amid an emotional farewell to the team in Newcastle.
Race 32 of the 2019 season was Courtney’s last with the Clayton-based team which he joined on a full-time basis in 2011, having made his Virgin Australia Supercars Championship debut with WAU, then known as the Holden Racing Team, in the enduros of 2005.
The 39-year-old has previously highlighted the relationships with the Walkinshaw family and others within the team as reason for staying on for almost a decade, even amid tough periods on the race track, but will move to Tekno Autosports in conjunction with its shift to Sydney next year.
He spoke with obvious emotion before the final race of the Newcastle 500, and again afterwards.
“It’s hard to put into words, it’s been nine years and amazing,” said Courtney post-race on Fox Sports’ Supercars Trackside.
“(I) Can’t thank the Walkinshaw family enough, (as well as) all the supporters from HRT times all the way through Walkinshaw Racing into WAU and all the guys and girls that have spent – geez it’s hard (the emotion) – so much time away from their families so I can do what I do. Thank you.”
WAU is all-change for 2020 with similarly long-time Tickford driver Chaz Mostert now confirmed as a new signing after months of speculation and 2019 Dunlop Super2 Series winner Bryce Fullwood tipped to land the other seat.
Scott Pye, who is on his way to an expanded Team 18, had a similar view to Courtney at the conclusion of the Newcastle 500.
The 29-year-old became a Supercars Championship race winner at Albert Park last year, and was runner-up in the two Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000s on either side of that achievement, but took only one other podium during his three-year tenure with WAU.
“My time here’s short (compared to Courtney’s) but this place is so close, there’s such a family atmosphere and obviously it’s a family team,” said Pye on Supercars Trackside.
“(I have) made some good friends in a short period of time and I think that’s why you see both of us (him and Courtney)…
“It’s strange; I live 15 minutes from all of them and it’s a weird feeling. There’s no bitterness, we’re not leaving on bad terms, either of us; it’s just a bunch of mates that have been able to go racing for three years.
“We never got what we wanted out of that time, (but) it’s fun when you can go racing with mates (and) there are going to be people I’m sure both of us will stay very close with for a long time.”
Courtney’s final year with WAU produced a podium with Jack Perkins in the Bathurst 1000, the team’s best result of the campaign, on his way to 11th in the championship.
Pye ended up one spot further back after one of his better outings to finish the season in Newcastle, driving from last on the grid to sixth in Race 31 having spent Friday night in hospital, and finishing one position higher in Race 32.