Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Kurt Busch and ex-Australian V8 Supercar Champion James Courtney swapped cars at the Circuit of The Americas. The circuit will host the Austin 400 stop of the V8 Supercar Championship May 17-19, when the series visits US soil for the first time.
In a prelude to the event, Busch (the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion) and Courtney (the 2010 Australian V8 Supercar Champion) drove each other’s cars around the Texas venue.
The Australian V8 Supercar is 400lbs lighter than a Sprint Cup car, but only has 650 horsepower compared to 950 in NASCAR. The NASCAR machine was faster accelerating in a straight line but the V8 Supercar far quicker through corners, making it a relatively equal contest between the two.
Furniture Row-Racing’s Busch had to adapt to sitting on the wrong side of the car, a sequential shift gearbox and a dramatically smaller steering wheel. Courtney also found himself on the other side of the car from what he is used to and had to revert to using an H-pattern gearbox that hasn’t been used in V8 Supercars since 2007.
“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.”
Holden Racing Team’s Courtney and fellow Championship contender Fabian Coulthard (Lockwood Racing) were also on hand at the Circuit of The Americas for last weekend’s successful inaugural MotoGP event where they drove demonstration laps at the venue.
Today’s track action was a dramatic twist for Courtney, who has driven a wide range of machinery including Formula 1, Le Mans and Japanese sportscars, Formula 3 and Formula Ford.
“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. It was also quite cool to see 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.”
Courtney and Coulthard will return home this week to prepare for the next round of the V8 Supercar championship in Perth, Western Australia, May 3-5. Teams will then prepare their cars for the Austin event which will showcase Ford, Holden (GM), Nissan, and Mercedes-Benz AMG V8 Supercars doing battle at the Circuit of The Americas.
In the meantime, have a look at some interview footage with all three drivers and a POV drive around the circuit in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup ride and a V8 Supercar.