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  Oreca 01 AIM
 

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Country of origin:France
Introduced in:2009
Designed by:David Floury for Oreca
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:May 20, 2009
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWhen Oreca's Hughes de Chaunac expressed his desire to return to the prototype classes a few years ago, few could have imagined the steps he would take to achieve this objective. The first of these was the surprise purchase of racing car manufacturer Courage Competition in the fall of 2007. Oreca now had the ability to build complete cars in-house, which was a step up from modifying and preparing cars for third parties. With numerous class wins in GT-racing with Vipers and Saleens and outright victories in the WTCC with Seat, Oreca had little else to prove in this department.

Having bought Courage so late in the previous season, Oreca treated 2008 as a transition year. The existing LMP1 chassis design was carried over, although equipped with a new engine and an extensively revised aero-package. Painted in a rather striking livery, the 'new' car was dubbed the Courage-Oreca LC70. Familiar Oreca drivers were joined for the season by highly experienced Formula 1 racer Olivier Panis. A third at Spa was a rare highlight in a season that was tainted by several big crashes. The most memorable of these was Stephane Ortelli's 'flight' at Monza.

With a season's worth of experience and forced by revised regulations, Oreca's David Floury led team started developing a brand new car for 2009. By this time the complete operation had moved to Oreca's home base in the South of France from Courage's former base in the Le Mans Technoparc. The team also changed engine suppliers; the Judd V10 used in 2008 was replaced by the AIM badged V10 for 2009. Although both are built by Engine Developments, the new engine has wider V-angle and as a result is lower and lighter than the 'customer' V10. In 2008 the 'Japanese' engine was found in the back of the Creations.

Making the most of the new engine's relative low height, Floury and his men penned an equally low car. This is a trend followed by most of the other petrol powered LMP1 cars like the all new Acura ARX-02a. With all the weight centered inside the wheelbase and as low down to the ground, the new petrol cars have a handling advantage over the bulkier diesel cars. Compared to the 2008 car, the biggest visual change is the nose, which is much smoother and no longer features the raised nose. Under the carbon fiber panels much of the running was also revised. Shedding the Courage name, the new car is labeled the 'Oreca 01.'

The Oreca 01s were not ready yet for the first for the first race of the season, so the team fielded a slightly updated version of the 2008 car, which was also available to customers. Shortly after the Catalunya season opener, the first pictures emerged of Oreca's brand new racing car. It was unpainted and it would take until the Spa 1000 km when the new livery was revealed. This was an improved version of the colorful Mondriaan inspired squares already in use in 2008. Another change for the new season was the addition of Bruno Senna to the driver line-up. He replaced Soheil Ayari alongside Ortelli. Panis was once again joined by Nicolas Lapierre.

The weekend at Spa kicked off well for the team with one of the Orecas setting the joint fastest time in the first practice session. In the following sessions, the cars were always found near the top of the field but they struggled to match the outright speed of the further developed competition. In the race, the Panis/Lapierre car ran second for a long time but lost a lot of time after a coming together with a back-marker. The two French drivers eventually finished fourth. The other car suffered from some teething problems but was in the top ten when Bruno Senna had a big crash in the closing stages of the race. Next up on the learning curve for the Oreca team is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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  Article Image gallery (22) Specifications