Ahead of the V8 Supercars USA debut in May, James Courtney and former NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Kurt Busch have taken part in a unique car swap at the Circuit of The Americas.
As part of a promotional event for the V8 Supercars Austin 400, Courtney got behind the wheel of Busch’s #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet SS Sprint Cup car, while Busch piloted the Holden Commodore Car Of The Future prototype which has been in Texas for the past month to help publicise the event.
Courtney has driven a wide range of machinery including Formula 1, Le Mans and Japanese Sportscars, but had to adapt to sitting on the other side of the car from what he is used to and revert to using a H-pattern gearbox that hasn’t been used in V8 Supercars since 2007.
“It was pretty wild sitting on the other side of the car and shifting an H-pattern gearbox,” Courtney said.
“The car was bigger and heavier. It has so much power. It’s really quite an experience.”
The Australian V8 Supercar is 400lbs lighter than the NASCAR Sprint Cup car, but only has 650 horsepower compared to 950 in NASCAR. The NASCAR was faster accelerating in a straight line but the V8 Supercar far quicker through corners, making it a relatively equal contest between the two.
“It was also quite cool to see it blow past the V8 car on the straight. It was really good. I’m forever grateful that the team gave me this opportunity.
“The steering wheel, it feels like it’s massive. But to run side-by-side I was pretty nervous because it’s moving around a bit more than what I’m used to.
“But the car was excellent. Changing with an H-pattern gearbox is different; it’s done almost automatically in the car at home so you never think about it. But another thing that is quite different is the braking performance.
“It’s built for Speedways, not really road courses. It’s a very different machine.”
Busch also found himself on the other side of the car and having to adapt to a sequential shift gearbox and a dramatically smaller steering wheel.
“It’s amazing, there are similarities and differences between the two cars,” Busch said.
“Sitting on the right side, shifting a bunch of gears with my left arm, you’re not in your comfort zone and it’s hard to understand what task of the car is next until you start checking things off your list that you learn the racetrack as well. So there were quite a few things going on. Information overload, to say the least.
“But it definitely makes it interesting to drive both cars on the track at the same time.
“The quickest way I can compare an Australian V8 Supercar to what people are familiar to in the States is it’s a muscle car but it’s a sports car at the same time.
“Much more power than what you see in the GT classes in the Grand Am series. And the ability, though, for what I see on TV, for these guys to run side-by-side, nose to tail, is the control of the cars, the balance they have makes it a treat to drive.”
Courtney was joined by fellow V8 Supercars Championship contender, Fabian Coulthard, and the pair spent the recent MotoGP weekend cutting demonstration laps at the circuit to promote next month’s Austin 400.
Courtney and Coulthard will return home this week to prepare for the next round of the V8 Supercars championship in Perth on 3 – 5 May.
The Austin 400 takes place two weeks later on 17-19 May.