Name that chassis - The science of taxonomy in sports cars

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Photography by: American Le Mans Series
2009 ORECA P1
2009 ORECA P1 Source American Le Mans Series
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2009 ORECA P1 HPD 01c Dyson Racing Lola ORECA P1

Names are funny things. Just when you think you get to know someone, they go and change their name. Well they do if they are called Cassius Clay.

Courage Competition produced what could be considered the Muhammad Ali of sports car racing. The Le Mans-based constructor made its American Le Mans Series debut at Silverstone in 2001 (no, that’s not a typo) and since then its products have done very well indeed. It won its first of three LMP2 manufacturers titles in 2005. It also went on to seal the prototype manufacturers title in 2010. It’s just that the history books don't record it.

The Courage LC70 is one of the most versatile and prolific sports racing cars of all-time, but many North American fans have never heard of it as it has never taken part in an ALMS race under its original name.

First launched in 2006 as one of the first cars built to the ACO's then-new LMP regulations (which replaced LMP675 and LMP900) there were two variants of the final car to bear the Courage name. The LC70 was built for LMP1 while the LC75 was built for LMP2. The chassis in both were identical. The year after its debut, the tub was developed into the Acura ARX-01, which despite its name and substantial aerodynamic work was still a Courage and has stayed that way to this day. Even the HPD-branded LMP1 01-e variant of 2011 was a Courage at it core.

In 2009, the ORECA 01 appeared on the European circuits, and later made sporadic appearances in the ALMS. This too was the same car, as was the ORECA FLM09, which is used to this day in Prototype Challenge.

HPD 01c

The same year Acura rolled out the Wirth Research-designed Acura ARX-02 – which had nothing at all in common with the Courage. This all seems straightforward, but in 2012 Wirth Research rolled out two new cars: the HPD ARX-03a and HPD ARX-03b while the ORECA 03 also appeared. The ORECA is simply another Courage LC75 variant but the HPDs – while heavily based on the LC75 tub – have a slightly revised chassis, which means that perhaps the direct family line of the Courage LC75 has come to an end. But that said its almost certain that someone somewhere will come up with another variant, and indeed Yves Courage has been attempting to get a fully electric LMP off the ground based on the car… but dubbed the Courage M0.11.

The LC in the cars name is the initials to Yves Courage's wife who passed away shortly before the car was launched. The legacy it has created is surely a fitting tribute.

While the Courage LC75 has had more identities than Jason Bourne, it is not the only car with a confusing name. For years Lola confused everyone with its chassis designations, firstly because they were difficult to follow and secondly because they kept changing them.

Take the cars run by Dyson Racing – it describes the car as a B12/66, which frankly it isn't. I'll explain the Lola chassis numbers briefly. FYI, the B stands for Birrane – the surname of Lola's then owner – and Lolas built before Martin Birrane's purchase of the company had the designation ‘T’ (such as the T97/30 F1 car). The next two digits are the year of the car’s homologation (though some think the year of the car’s build, which is wrong). So a chassis homologated in 2008 would be a B08/xx. The final two digits are the class to which the cars are built. They work as follows:

00 – IndyCar / Champ Car

10 – open-top LMP1

20 – vague, but has been used for open-wheel racing school cars

30 - Formula 3 cars and Lola's disastrous F1 efforts

40 – open-top LMP2

50 – F3000

60 – closed-top LMP1

70 – Daytona Prototype

80 – closed-top LMP2

90 – track-day cars / Sports 2000

Note sometimes the ‘0’ is changed for a number to denote the engine installation.

So if that all makes sense then the Dyson car is a B08/80, as the cars used by the team started life as LMP1s but a rule change saw them wash up in LMP2. However if the tub is based on the LMP1 car (like the one used by Rebellion) then it really would be a B08/60, but that said I think that the B08/60 and B08/80 have an identical chassis!

But then with all of that said – what’s in a name? Well quite a lot if you ask me. I get annoyed when I hear a car called by some new and made-up name simply because the team got a shiny new sponsor or because the manufacturer fitted a new brake duct. My Jaguar is still an S-Type even though I have added a few dents. It’s not a Jaguar S-SC/13. I could call it that, but everyone would think I was a bit odd. So why then do we let teams and carmakers just change the names of their cars all the time without question? Let’s call a Courage a Courage and a HPD a Honda… or is that still a Courage?


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