Two former champions in motor racing series on different sides of the world got a chance to try trading places this week at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Former NASCAR Sprint Cup title winner Kurt Busch and former V8 champion James Courtney were able to drive a few miles in the other man's shoes in a specially organised driver swap event at the circuit following Sunday's MotoGP there. The V8 Supercar series will be holding its first US event at the 3.4-mile COTA next month on May 17-19.
"I'm flattered to be invited by Circuit of The Americas and the Australian V8 Supercars Series to participate in this unique event," said Busch. "Getting a chance to drive a V8 Supercar was high on my wish list, and the chance to do it at Circuit of The Americas makes this a dream opportunity.
“It's amazing, there are similarities and differences between the two cars,” continued Busch, who won the Cup Series championship in 2004 and who currently drives for Furniture Row Racing. He finished in 15th place in the most recent race of the series at Kansas on Sunday.
"There were quite a few things going on - information overload, to say the least," said Buch as he got to grips with using an unfamiliar sequential shift gearbox. "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.
"It definitely makes it interesting to drive both cars on the track at the same time," he added. "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."
A V8 Supercar is 180kg (400lbs) lighter than its NASCAR equivalent but the engine only has 650 horsepower compared with the Cup car's 950. That makes the Cup car faster in a straight line but the V8 Supercar more nimble through the corners balancing out the overall performance.
The biggest challenge for Busch was that Australian cars are right-hand drive, a very odd experience for an American to cope with. "Sitting on the right side, shifting a bunch of gears with my left arm, you're not in your comfort zone," he admitted.
James Courtney, the 2010 V8 Supercar champion, also found the switch of sides in the car to be a big hurdle to feeling comfortable in the car, as well as having to revert to an old-style manual gear shift.