ADRIAN Burgess still rates Dick Johnson Racing’s thrash to repair James Courtney’s battered car at the 2010 Supercars season finale as one of his greatest days in the sport.
The Saturday race at Sydney Olympic Park has gone down as one of the most dramatic in championship history.
It’s a race that will be featured in the first episode of 7’s Motorsport Classics this weekend to be shown ahead the Seven Network’s Saturday’s coverage of the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown.
LOCKED IN: Mostert signs new multi-year deal with WAU
STRANGE BUT TRUE: HRT and FPR’s bizarre shunt on the way to the track
All three championship contenders sustained significant damage when a host of cars crashed in a sudden rain storm.
DJR’s efforts to get Courtney’s car out in time to be classified proved the difference in winning the closely-fought title chase.
Burgess, who joined DJR from Formula 1 in mid-2006, shares his recollections of the era in the second part of his visit to the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco.
Listen to the full episode in the player below!
Over a decade on, he cites it as the culmination of a long-term plan to build a team capable of getting the job done.
“It’s a great story and it’s something that I’m proud to have been a part of,” Burgess told the V8 Sleuth Podcast.
“We started to put a really good group of people together and part of that was making sure we had the right hardware.”
The team took its first race victory under Burgess in 2008 when Will Davison triumphed at Eastern Creek.
“I think that was the start of us building some momentum, and part of that process enabled us to get someone of James’ calibre on board,” Burgess said.
“James was another ingredient we needed and wanted from the team to take us to that next level.
“Then the FG (Falcon) came and we went and got a car from (Roland Dane) and stuck our engine in it.”
The 2010 season ended in a fairytale championship victory amid questions and rumours over the future of the team, its ownership, funding, management structure and key staff escalating through the season.
Despite the off-track turmoil, the team was performing on it and making the most of its opportunities.
Courtney emerged as a key title combatant against Triple Eight and Jamie Whincup, whose first season as a Holden team proved to be a rollercoaster of its own.
“I said to James at the start of the year: ‘On days the car’s only good enough for fourth or fifth, be fourth or fifth – I don’t want you trying to get third and spray it and end up tenth,’” Burgess recalled.
“’(But) days you can win, you’ve got to win.’ And JC did exactly that.”
Four straight wins on the newly-introduced soft tyre at Queensland Raceway and Winton vaulted Courtney into a championship lead that he clung to all the way through to the season finale at Homebush.
He entered the final round 53 points ahead of Whincup and 203 ahead of Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom with 300 up for grabs across the two races.
Infamously, all three ended up in the fence on the lap-60 restart.
“I think we made a couple of key choices right,” Burgess said.
“We got the car straight in the garage where we could throw people at it. I think FPR sat in the pit lane and tried to do it, and then you’re restricted to the 6-7 people over the line that you could use.
“We just got on with it and Triple Eight did the same thing.”
With the race’s time-certain finish ticking ever closer, the DJR and Triple Eight crews worked furiously to try and get their title contenders back out on track to score championship points as classified finishers.
“We knew it was a race: us against them,” Burgess recalled.
“My guys, it was an honour to lead those blokes because they were the difference that day.
“The will and commitment … I saw them, they were holding uprights that were burning them.
“We knew it only had to do a lap or two; you wouldn’t go and put it in the Le Mans 24 Hours with that setup on the car, but we knew what it needed to do.
“It wasn’t perfect, but it was safe. You’re never going to put the guy out on track unless it’s safe.”
History shows the DJR crew won the race off pit lane, triggering a mighty cheer from the fans across from and above the garages.
“Hearing the corporate and grandstand erupt was just incredible,” Burgess said.
“My wife and daughter were upstairs at the time. You could feel the emotion from three floors up, it was just incredible.”
Whincup joined Courtney on track moments later but, crucially, only had time for an out-lap while the DJR pilot had time for an out-lap and a full circuit.
Amid the carnage, Jonathon Webb took the chequered flag to win the race in DJR’s third car before all eyes turned to the title combatants.
“We looked at the monitors and realised we were classified and he wasn’t. It was like we’d won the championship that day,” Burgess said.
“That was the result of five years of hard work putting a great team together of fantastic people, all aligned, all with the same passion, all with the energy to get it done.
“That was what you could do if you believe.”