The former Jaguar F1 test driver's career took a decisive turn when he suffered a horrific accident during a test session at Monza in 2002.
While he bounced back the following year by winning the Japanese Formula 3 Championship, Courtney would commute from the Gold Coast to race Japanese Super GT in 2004 and 2005 before finally calling time on his overseas ambitions.
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Having made his Supercars debut for the Holden Racing Team in the 2005 enduros, the then-25-year-old became a permanent fixture in the championship in 2006 when he took over the highly-coveted Stone Brothers Racing seat vacated by NASCAR-bound Marcos Ambrose.
“It was pretty tough, I suppose, where I had gotten close to the F1 dream where I was testing and racing and then went to Japan and had the experience of the tin-top or saloon style racing,” he explained.
“I could have had a race seat in F1 the year I came back here or I could have gone to America (to race IndyCar).
“It wasn't that hard a decision in the end. I'd forgotten about what life was like in Australia. I'd been gone I think 14 years.
“I left at such a young age at 14 or 15 and would come home every year at Christmas-time and see my mum and my twin which is something not a lot of people know.
“I wanted to have a relationship with my family. (Wife) Carys and I wanted to start a family.
“This championship was growing and exploding.”
The now-father of two added that the lure of Supercars itself was a motivating factor in his move, contrasting the style of Super GT racing to that of Formula 1.
“Carys and I packed our bags and went off to Japan and won the Japanese F3 championship and had an amazing time racing the big sports cars,” he added.
“That probably gave me a little taste of what I'd missed I'd suppose.
“You could run really close and lunge and pass and have really good on-track battles.
“It really fired me up to want to pursue touring car racing and ultimately from that moment I was like, ‘I want to come back'.”
The Mobil 1 HSV Racing driver will be on-track with his 25 contemporaries for Practice at Albert Park from Thursday at 12:50 AEDT.
Speedcafe.com will provide live updates of all Supercars sessions across the four days of the Australian Grand Prix program.