James Courtney can barely remember the last time he was happy as he headed to a race meeting.
The story is much the same for winning in Supercars.
Now, with team troubles behind him and a very messy divorce finally in the rear-view mirror, he can laugh as he prepares for Sydney Motorsport Park.
Courtney is confident in his Ford Mustang ride at Tickford Racing and his backing from Boost Mobile, and has nothing to prove to anyone but himself, but is still not tempted to make any bold predictions.
“I’m so chilled. I had this tension in me for so long. It’s bizarre, how good it feels,” Courtney tells Race News.
“Although I’m getting older I actually feel 10 years younger than I did at this time last year. I didn’t realise how much stress and stuff I was carrying around.
“I was angry for a long time. Life’s too short now to be angry.”
His anger came mostly from frustration, something that has often dogged the former Supercars champion, from the early days when he just missed a place in Formula One to Supercars injuries that put him on the sideline and left him in constant pain.
But Courtney 2.0 sounds more like the little kid from Penrith in western Sydney than a 39-year-old touring car veteran.
His career looked totally derailed after the Adelaide 500, as he walked away from a dysfunctional deal with Team Sydney, but now things are back on track.
“Did I think I was done and dusted? Obviously, when it all happened, I knew Pete (Adderton, boss of Boost) was going to support me, so I knew something was going to happen.
“It was a matter of what and how. It was a matter of finding a solution.”
That solution came when Phil Munday was forced to terminate his deal with Tickford and Courtney’s Boost backing put him into what had been Will Davison’s seat in the Milwaukee Mustang.
“As hard as it was to walk away from the original plan, it was so enlightening. Everything became so clear,” Courtney says.
“Now I’m really looking forward to racing. I still have a lot to give. I’m passionate and I love the sport.”
Courtney knows he has been a polarising figure in the pitlane, and not always the best team mate or race rival, but says it all sprang from his burning desire to win.
“If I’m not winning I’m not happy. I want to win every fucking time,” Courtney states bluntly.
“The best result last year was third at Bathurst. But even that was a result that we shouldn’t have got.
“I love the driving and the fight. And that’s why I’m going through all the crap I’m doing.”
The crap will clear this weekend, just a few kilometres from his roots in Penrith, but he is not expecting things to be easy.
Everything is new, from the Tickford team to the pitlane procedure and even the lights and switches and controls in the cabin.
“I know the car is going to be good enough for a strong position, but it’s still going to be a tough weekend. It’s hard to manage the expectation.
“I haven’t even sat in the car with my seat. I want to win but, realistically, even a top five would be a great result.”
Courtney admits he is feeling pressure, but it’s mostly internal.
“I think all of us put more pressure on ourselves than anyone externally can do. I’m not trying to impress anyone.
“It’s just about doing something I love and enjoying it, and getting back to the place where I love my racing.
“You can over-complicate things and over-think things, but driving a car for a living is pretty damn cool. It’s good to be going to a racetrack for a weekend and doing the bit I love.”
Apart from racing at the front, Courtney believes he still brings other worthwhile stuff to Supercars.
“I’m probably the last of the old-school guys. The end of that outspoken era. I’m not a robot.
“Hopefully I bring a bit of colour. I’m not afraid to get dirty and get among it with the racing. I’m not someone who will take crap on the track.
“But I can leave it on the track. If there is a bit of a dust-up I don’t storm into the other bloke’s garage to complain. And I don’t have a fight with someone on Twitter.”
So, cutting to the chase, Courtney has one simple objective as a new Mustang man.
“Running with the other Tickford guys, or getting ahead, is the first box to tick. I’ve still got the fight in me. So I think if I get half a chance then I can still deliver a result,” he says.