James Courtney admits it will take years for him to fully recover from a freak pit-lane accident that left his V8 Supercars championship hopes – and lungs – in tatters.
But the 2010 V8 champion is convinced a new-look Holden Racing Team garage will help get him back on track next year.
Courtney said he was still in pain after suffering five broken ribs and a punctured lung when hit by flying debris blown by a low-flying Navy helicopter at August’s Sydney Motorsport Park round.
Courtney tried to fast-track his recovery in October by undergoing a procedure that sends electrical pulses to numb the nerve endings around his tender ribs.
Courtney eventually made a triumphant return at the Gold Coast 600 in late October but admitted he would have to get used to dealing with the pain for some time to come.
“They said it will at least be a couple of years with dramas,” Courtney told AAP.
“When I really inhale I can feel it and some arm movements I can feel it.
“It is something that will be with me for a while.
“But when I am driving I am too focused to worry about it – it doesn’t affect me.”
The pain of being denied a crack at the 2015 V8 title also hurt.
Courtney had his hopes dashed when he missed two endurance rounds offering major points – including the season highlight Bathurst 1000 – as he recovered from the serious injury.
He finished 10th overall in the 2015 standings.
“I think everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong this year,” Courtney said.
However, an HRT overhaul has ensured Courtney is confident of reversing his fortunes in 2016.
In a back-to-basics approach boss Ryan Walkinshaw has switched his focus to Courtney and teammate Garth Tander, launching a two-car HRT title assault next year.
Driver Lee Holdsworth has relocated from the HRT base in Melbourne to help set up a new single-car team under owner Charlie Schwerkolt.
The once all-conquering HRT have not won a driver’s championship since 2002.
“There’s a big shake-up at HRT, cutting it down to two cars,” Courtney said.
“We need to get the team back to where it should be – at the front and getting results.
“It’s a more focused approach. It is going to be easier as a team to develop the cars.
“A smaller knit group will be easier to keep that team bond.
“It was like having three teams in one the way it was laid out – now we are definitely one team.”