JAMES Courtney will return to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at the end of this month at Sydney Motorsport Park with a new car, team, colours and number.
He and Boost Mobile replace Will Davison, Milwaukee and Phil Munday in the fourth slot at Tickford Racing, where Courtney will drive a #44 Ford Mustang GT.
The number was Courtney’s number as a junior karter and he’s never been able to get his hands on it in Supercars – until now.
In fact, the #44 has an interesting history in the Australian Touring Car Championship and in its modern Supercars Championship era too.
It hasn’t been used in the championship in a decade, last appearing on a ‘main game’ grid at the 2010 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on the side of a wildcard entry – the #44 Greg Murphy Racing Commodore of Geoff Emery and Marcus Zukanovic, the latter replacing original driver Rod Salmon mid race weekend.
The last time it was used in the championship on a Ford was 1991 – Mike Twigden drove a Brian Bolwell-entered Sierra RS500 (one of the ex Tony Longhurst B&H team cars) at the first Lakeside round that year (there were two held at the Queensland circuit that year).
Car #44 has never won an ATCC/VASC race, its best result a pair of third placed finishes.
One came via Geoff Leeds in 1979 at Oran Park – for that round the over and under three litre cars were split into their own races. Leeds’ #44 Capri finished third in the smaller car race behind the similar cars of Lawrie Nelson and Steve Masterton.
And the other third-place was also at Oran Park, seven years later in 1986 when John Bowe took the Volvo Dealer Team 240 Turbo to third place in the final round of that year’s championship.
Speaking of Oran Park, the town and housing development that replaced the circuit is backing Will Davison’s Eseries campaign for the final two rounds, joining V8 Sleuth on the flanks of the virtual #23 Mustang GT!
The #44 appeared in the very first ATCC race at Gnoo-Blas in February 1960, Howard Sketchley behind the wheel of an Austin Lancer carrying the number. It reportedly suffered engine problems and didn’t finish the 20 lap race.
The number was mostly used by class cars through the first two decades of ATCC history until the 1980s when it started to appear on cars in the outright class.
Commodores privateer Tony Mulvihill briefly ran it in 1988 but it became the regular number for another Commodore privateer, Stuart McColl, below left, in 1992 and 1993.
Sydney privateer Mal Rose joined the V8 ranks in 1996 with his Fairfax Community Classifieds black and fluro yellow ex-Pinnacle Motorsport Commodore and he made the number his own in V8 Supercars through the latter part of the decade.
While the number hasn’t won a ‘main game’ race, Rose did take two Privateers Dash wins (both at Calder, in 1996 and 1998) during his time with #44, middle below pic.
The creation of Team Dynamik for 2003 brought the number back into the main championship where it was Simon Wills’ regular number for the next three seasons.
Perhaps the most striking Team Dynamik piece of history of #44 is the fight at the 2003 Sandown 500, above right, where Wills’ partner Jason Richards duked it out with Mark Skaife for the race win in the closing stages.
Take a look at some of our other ‘What’s In A Number’ history stories below.