In an era when sportscar racing was dominated by big works teams, Yves Courage set up shop near the Le Mans track to build and prepare his own cars specifically for the annual 24 Hours race down the road. They made their debut in 1982 Cougar C01 and ten years later Courage was a leading independent sports prototype manufacturer. In an era dominated by the works Audi and Bentley racers, Courage cars often picked up the 'best of the rest' result. New regulations to increase safety and cut costs were introduced in 2004 and hence two classes were born; LMP 1 and LMP 2, intended for high profile works teams and privateers respectively.
With the C65, Courage were the first to introduce a new car to fully comply with the LMP 2 regulations. Although it ran as a LMP 675 car in 2003, it was specifically designed for the new class. As per the LMP 2 rules, the C65 features a symmetrical roll over structure and a floorpan with regulated tunnels starting well before the rear wheel line, and the engine is mounted as a non-stressed member. The carbon fibre tub was pretty much carried over from the already successful C60 LMP 900 racer. A number of engines were available to be fitted in the spacious engine bay of the C65, the most popular and successful being either the 2 Litre Turbo Charged AER unit or the 3.4 Litre Judd V8, additional options included Mecachrome Ford V8 or the JPX V6.
Less than a dozen LMP2 Courage were built and the cars enjoyed great success between 2003 and 2008, picking up 12 Class wins and several championship wins in the LMP2 Class.
The Courage C65 chassis 008 was delivered new in 2004 to Epsilon Sport with the JPX V6. At the 2004 Le Mans test, the car set the 6th fastest lap time in LMP2 (with 5 of the Top 6 being Courage chassis’). However, chassis 08 was a reserve entry for that years’ 24 Hours of Le Mans, and ultimately would not take part.
For 2005, the car returned to the factory and enjoyed a colour change from blue, to white and orange (Moët & Hennesey), and now utilised an AER power unit, which had proved to be a better option than the JPX V6. Under Noel de Bello’s banner, the car competed in the complete '05 Le Mans Endurance Series. Highlights from this campaign include: a 2nd place finish on its first time out at the Spa 1,000 kms, and a promising race at 24 Hours of Le Mans, cut short at 2am by a mechanical failure.
For 2006, the car was to focus solely on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and was fitted with a screaming naturally aspirated 3.4-litre Judd V8, and liveried in orange, black and white. The car was driven by Franck Hahn, Jean-Francois Leroch and the 17-year-old British driver; Ed Morris, who at the time was the youngest Brit to ever compete at Le Mans. Sadly, despite showing pace, reliability caused an early bath for the Courage again. Following this, the car made its way to the USA where it spent most of its time as a show car.
In 2021, the car returned to Europe, namely into the hands of LMP specialists Pursuit Racing, who have undertaken a complete restoration, with the 2023 Endurance Racing Legends the target in mind on completion. Fitted again with a 3.4-litre Judd V8, which is capable of producing 600 bhp at 10,500 rpm, as well as recieving a comprehensive crack check and renewal of components, the car is successfully restored and ready to race. Also, the Engine Management System has been converted to MOTEC for reliability and ease of use, which also enables the car to legally run the latest paddle shift gearchange.
Finished in the striking orange and black ‘G-Force’ livery, the car completed its first shakedown at Turweston Airfield in March and a pre-event test at Donington, where the car showed promise ahead of a debut at Peter Auto's Mugello Classic.
The car's only race meeting post restoration was at Mugello for the first round of the 2023 Endurance Racing Legends series, which falls under the Peter Auto organisational umbrella. The car was driven by James Littlejohn (a seasoned LMP driver) and DK's own Harvey Stanley who, having not driven Aero or Slick cars in earnest before, could demonstrate how easy the car would be for an amateur to drive. In both 40-minute races, the Courage utterly dominated the LMP2 class. In Race 1 the car finished 1st in class, with its fastest lap best in class by a clear 5 Seconds, and just 0.3 seconds from the LMP1 fastest lap time. In Race 2 the result was another crushing LMP2 class victory, with both drivers setting fastest lap in class and again being within a second of the LMP1 fastest lap time, as well as another overall podium.
Since Mugello, the car has been re-prepped for its next race where in fresh hands there is no doubt it has the capability to win the LMP2 class, and in the right hands, could challenge for overall honours.