Penrite Racing team boss Barry Ryan has confirmed his team had talks with free agent James Courtney over a wildcard program this season.
The 2010 series champion made a shock exit from Team Sydney after the season opening Superloop Adelaide 500, with Courtney citing the team not honouring a “big commitment” as the reason behind his sudden departure.
Shortly after the announcement, Courtney – who has been replaced by Alex Davison for the rest of the season – declared he had already been in touch with a number of teams regarding a possible return. That return would likely coincide with backing from Boost Mobile, which followed Courtney out the door at Team Sydney.
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Ryan’s team was one to approach Courtney, with the Holden squad’s boss revealing on Fox Sports’ The Loud Pedal podcast that a wildcard program – which would likely include a run at Bathurst – had been discussed.
He added a Courtney deal was “definitely close” to being completed before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic brought a halt to proceedings.
“There’s definitely been conversations and they were getting fairly close and then obviously this whole thing [COVID-19] happened,” the Erebus Motorsport CEO told the podcast.
“The day the Grand Prix got shutdown was the day we were trying to sort of get to a point where we were 99.9 percent, so it’s sort of on the back burner now.
“There’s no hiding the fact that we want to grow as a team… whether three [cars] is the right model, I don’t care what anybody thinks, we know whether we can do it or not.
“The answer is it was definitely close and we’d love to get him.”
Penrite Racing currently runs two cars in the main game for David Reynolds and Anton De Pasquale, with the former locked in to a 10-year deal. Young guns Will Brown and Brodie Kostecki will co-drive the respective entries for the 2020 enduros, with Brown set for a drive with the team in the future.
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According to Ryan, having Courtney in the team would help “get our cars faster”, commenting the 39-year-old would be a “good asset” to Penrite Racing as it looks to compete for wins with Shell V-Power Racing and Red Bull Holden Racing Team.
Should Courtney run at the enduros, he would need a co-driver – and there have been suggestions former Kelly Racing driver Simona De Silvestro, who returned to Europe with Porsche on a factory contract, could make a Supercars comeback.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to reshuffle motorsport calendars worldwide, De Silvestro could be subject to event clashes between Porsche commitments and Supercars races.
While the team would require more staff to help run a third entry, Ryan conceded the Swiss driver wouldn’t be a “bad driver” to bring back into the sport alongside Courtney.
“[Courtney]’s got Boost as a good backer and love or hate them, a lot of people think they’re pretty loose with what they do but that’d probably suit us,” Ryan said.
“He obviously could be a good asset to our team, he’s another top line driver that can help us get our cars faster.
“I’ve heard [De Silvestro’s] name obviously mentioned. It hasn’t been real recent or anything, but she certainly couldn’t be a bad person to have as a co-driver in a third car.
“She’s got [recent] main game experience and would be as good as nearly all the co-drivers out there I would think, apart from Will and Brodie.”