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  Courage-Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet

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Country of origin:France
Introduced in:2009
Designed by:Paolo Catone / Ben Wood for Courage Competition
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:November 22, 2009
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Click here to download printer friendly versionOver the last few years the Le Mans Prototypes have become ever quicker and more complex. To give aspiring gentleman-drivers a taste of sports car racing's top level, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) launched the one-make Formula Le Mans series in 2009. The six round championship included support events for most of the Le Mans Series rounds. The icing on the cake was the one-hour race in the build-up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the full La Sarthe circuit. For 2010 the Formula Le Mans cars will also be able to take part in all American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and Le Mans Series rounds.

Dubbed the FLM09, the Formula Le Mans car was jointly developed by Courage-Oreca and the ACO. The basis is formed by the Courage LC70 design that was also used for various top level LMP1 and LMP2 designs, including the fabulous Acura LMP2 cars. Like most of the sports racers developed by Courage, the LC70 is a relatively straightforward design. The monocoque chassis is constructed from carbon fibre with an aluminium honeycomb core. Suspension is by double wishbones with push-rod and rocker actuated coil springs over dampers on both ends.

Aft of the cockpit, the Formula Le Mans car sports a Corvette sourced V8. Contributing greatly to the low costs is the fact that this is basically a 'crate-engine', slightly adapted for use in a racing car. The single biggest change is the inclusion of the dry-sump oil system but even that can be fitted by most experienced mechanics. There are no performance upgrades, so General Motors lump should be very reliable. All 430 horses are fed to the rear wheels through a XTrac six-speed gearbox, which is operated by paddles behind the steering wheel.

Launched under the most difficult of circumstances, the Formula Le Mans series struggled to attract more than a dozen cars for a round in the opening season. Experienced teams like DAMS and Thierry Boutsen Energy Racing fielded the cars for the gentleman drivers. Ahead of the already packed grandstands, the Le Mans round was won by Gavin Cronje and Nicolas Verdonck in one of the DAMS prepared cars. After six rounds Verdonck also topped the championship tables, four points ahead of his team-mate.

Even though built as a budget prototype racer, a new 2010 Le Mans Challenge car will still cost nearly $400,000. What makes the Courage-Oreca a more attractive prospect over the similarly paced LMP2 cars is the relatively cheap engine. It is also strictly forbidden for teams to subject their cars to wind-tunnel or other expensive tests. The prospect of being able to race a prototype at tracks like Le Mans, Sebring, Silverstone and Laguna Seca may attract more interested drivers in the coming years.

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  Article Image gallery (52) Specifications User Comments (2)