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  Acura ARX-01a

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Country of origin:Japan
Produced in:2007
Designed by:Courage / Acura
Successor:Acura ARX-01b
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:April 25, 2007
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Click here to download printer friendly versionFounded in 1981, Courage Competition was primarily set up to provide team boss Yves Courage with a car to race in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The company's creations were evocatively named 'Cougar' and when the initial Cosworth engines were replaced by Porsche flat sixes; a number of class wins were recorded. From 1993 onwards the cars were re-branded Courage, but that by no means affected the performance. A second place finish in the 1995 Le Mans is still the team's best result to date.

With the change in name also came a change in policy; Courage now took up supplying chassis to privateer teams. To design the car, they hired Paole Cantone who had previously designed the Le Mans winning Peugeots. The cars were raced in the second half of the 1990s in North America by privateers and in Europe by Courage Competition and the newly formed Pescarolo Sport. At Le Mans the cars showed Courage's vast experience on that track with a number of top-ten finishes, but on other track the company's lack of experience with high downforce tracks and lack of development prevented good results from being scored.

Courage and Cantone started with a clean sheet for the Courage C60 model that would see the company into the 21st century. It was again obvious that the main target was Le Mans, but there was a more development high downforce setup available as well. Continuous development saw the introduction of the LMP675 / LMP2 C65 variant in 2003 and the C60 Hybrid LMP1 car for 2005. Especially the C65 proved successful, racking up class victorious at Le Mans and in various LMES races. Pescarolo Sport bought two C60 chassis as well, but has since independently developed their cars with the help of Andre de Cortanze. In 2005 the Pescarolo Courage finished second at Le Mans and claimed the LMES title.

For the 2006 season it was time for the third Cantone/Courage 'clean sheet' design. Because of the way the current LMP1/2 regulations are drawn up, it was possible for Courage to design a car that could be used in both classes without compromising too much. While Courage's first designs following the new aerodynamic regulations were not very well liked, the LC70 and LC75 are very good looking cars, proving that a LMP1/2 does not have to be ugly as was initially feared. The most striking features are the pointy double roll-hoop structure and the pointy rear fenders.

First to take to the track was the LC70 LMP1 car with the works car powered by an all new Mugen V8 and the Swiss Spirit privateer effort equipped with the latest 5-litre Judd V10. Throughout the 2006 season both versions of the LC70 were very fast, but proved to be very fragile. Jean Marc Gounon was only really able to show the car's performance in the qualifying session, where he qualified his Works Courage on pole several times. The Swiss Spirit car was a little more reliable and the team finished the season in fourth place, just one point behind the joint second placed teams.

In the fall of 2006 Acura unveiled an elaborate scheme to enter sportscar racing. Aimed at the LMP2 class, they had developed a new 3.4 litre V8 engine. To learn more about chassis development, the manufacturer bought two Acura LC75 and one Lola B05/40 chassis. Throughout the winter the three cars were tested side by side and before the start of the season delivered to the 'privateer' teams that were entrusted with running the cars in the ALMS championship. Especially the Courage chassis were heavily modified, to the extent that they were re-branded to Acura ARX-01a.

The American season opening Sebring 12 Hours is considered the most difficult race after the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The very bumpy track makes the race very hard on man and machine. The Acuras were immediately on the pace and impressed during the race by immediately scoring a class win against the season Porsche RS Spyders. In the following, shorter races, the Acuras were in the thick of it again and even looked set to take an overall win at one point. It all bodes well for the rest of the season and the company's imminent move up to the LMP1 class.

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