James Courtney is busting out the P Plates for his return to Sydney Motorsport Park.
After a difficult switch from a Holden Commodore to a Ford Mustang, the former Supercars champion admits his first run at SMP was more like a driving lesson.
He is having to learn new tricks, and un-learn some old habits, as he looks to drive up the grid for through the rest of this year’s Supercars championship.
So the L Plates are gone but he admits he is still on his Ps.
“I’m having to unwind some of the old stuff and think about how to unlock the speed in the new car,” Courtney tells Race News.
“They have a very different feel. It’s take a bit of time to understand the car and adapt my driving.
“It’s just a matter of switching on to what the Mustang wants. The way to drive the car is quite different to the Commodore. It’s very different in the way you drive it.”
After his long-term run at Walkinshaw Andretti United, Courtney admits the different feel of the Tickford Racing car took him a little by surprise.
“It might sound a bit strange, but feels like the Mustang has a longer wheelbase. It’s a bit slower in the response but more dramatic in its movements.
“The Commodore pitches quicker and squats quicker. But it’s less intrusive on the transitions.”
Courtney says is now being more gentle on his inputs, with more of a ‘hurry up and wait’ approach to the car.
So it’s now stab-turn-go, but more of a coaxing approach to get the car flowing and fast.
“No way was the Mustang bad last time at SMP. The car was great. We drove through the field and the consistency and race pace was good.
“It’s just where the speed is in the car is different. With the WAU car it was inherently a good braking car, and was good at bombing into the corners, after all those years with Garth Tander and how he drove.“
Courtney believes he is adapting quickly and has the advantage of three team-mates at Tickford – Cam Waters, Lee Holdsworth and Jack Le Brocq – for feedback and date.
“It’s best for me to adapt as much as I can and get as fast and close to the other guys as possible. It will make the learning process a little bit quicker and easier. And then we can change the car from there.
“Last time in Sydney, through the two races on Sunday, I started to get a lot better handle on it. Normally you don’t get the chance for back-to-back input and feedback.”
He says Holdsworth is a good guide to the Holden-to-Ford switch, as he has come through the same thing.
“It’s been really good talking to Lee. He said it was a six-month learning curve for him. I’ve got about six days so far.
“He’s been very open and helpful. Now I’ve got to speed this thing up. As least I’m off my Ls,” Courtney laughs.
Apart from adapting to the Mustang, Courtney joins the chorus of drivers who are wondering about the tyre allocation – and how to make the best of the mix-and-match Dunlop soft and hard-compound slicks – this weekend.
“The craziest thing about the weekend is the tyres. Everyone has their own ideas and objectives.
“But it depends on how you qualify. And you have to commit early. Some people will be doing everything to get into the Top 15 on Saturday with hard tyres, others will be using their softs for impact.
“It’s going to be a ball-ache, but I think it will be good viewing.”