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Monday, September 6, 2010

1991 Porsche C26S


Registration no: N/A Chassis no: C02-02 Price: Refer Department Among the French race car manufacturers that have set their sights on victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, Courage Competition is one that has come tantalisingly close to achieving its aim. Founder Yves Courage, a very successful hillclimber between 1973 and 1980 in Formula Two machinery, had also entered three Le Mans races from 1977 to 1979 with Porsches and a Chevron-BMW but he failed to finish any. Then, in 1981, it all came good, Courage winning his class in a Lola T298-BMW, and this spurred him into building his own sports-prototype for the new, Group C, World Endurance Championship of 1982. The appropriately Le Mans-based team produced the Cougar C01, an excellently engineered, lightweight machine with aluminium/honeycomb monocoque designed by Marcel Hubert, who had penned Alpine-Renault's 1978 24 Hours winner; but the Cosworth DFL-powered car failed to finish. For his second attempt with his own car at Le Mans in 1983, Courage again failed to finish with an updated Cougar C01B and he suffered a similar fate the following year. A result finally came in 1985 with the turbocharged 2.6 litre, Porsche 956-engined C12, albeit 20th place, then a highly promising third with the 2.8 litre C20 in 1987. It remained Courage's highest placing until 1994 - the previous season, incidentally, saw Courage replace Cougar as the marque name - and the team would have to wait until 1995 to achieve its second place with the C32. There have been wins elsewhere and Courage continues, with its own and customer cars, to strive for that elusive Le Mans victory. Acquired in 2002 by the vendor, entrepreneurial businessman and keen racer Mike Jankowski - and founder and owner of Creation Autosportif which runs two front-running LMP1 class Creation-Judd chassis in the Le Mans Series - from the Le Mans Museum, chassis C02-02 is the second Cougar ever built out of a total of just some 11 chassis. Fitted with a Cosworth DFL V8 engine it was first entered in the C1 class by main sponsor Primagaz at Le Mans in 1984 where, driven by Courage/Michel Dubois/John Jellinek, it retired with oil pump failure after 153 laps. The same year it was also rented to Budweiser Racing/John Jellinek for a couple of races in the IMSA Championship in America, and in 1986 it was temporarily sold to America where it was modified and renamed a JRE-SR71 before returning to Courage Competition. The car then served as a back-up works car until 1988, by which time it had evolved into a C12, before running in the C2 class at Le Mans the same year, again entered by Primagaz; driven by Max Cohen-Olivar/Patrick de Radigues it took the flag but was not classified having only covered 273 laps after long delays. Chassis C02-02's next appearance in the 24 Hours was the following year where it returned to the C1 class as a C22LM with Porsche 962 power and Porsche transaxle; it again encountered ill fortune when Patrick Gonin/Bernard de Dryver/Bernard Santal retired after 168 laps with an electronics failure. The car's final contemporary Le Mans outing came in 1991 as a C26S, powered by a 2.8 litre Porsche 962 engine, in the C2 class; alas, crewed by Chris Hodgetts/Andrew Hepworth/Thierry Lecerf, it was perilously close to the minimum weight limit and was disqualified from the race at the post-qualifying weigh-in. For the remainder of 1991 it served as a works back-up car in the World Sportscar Championship and it was subsequent to this that the Cougar was purchased by the Le Mans Museum. Once in the hands of Creation Autosportif, chassis C02-02 was comprehensively taken and apart and reassembled in 2004, during which the engine was completely rebuilt by Porsche race engine specialist Bob Watson Engineering, prior to its first outing and race entry since 1991 in the Le Mans Legends race supporting that year's 24 Hours; problems with the Bosch electronic engine management system, however, led to its withdrawal after qualifying and the following year this was replaced by a state of the art Motec system and the engine totally remapped to accept it.; later specification Brembo brakes have also been fitted. It was the vendor's intention to run the car in the historic Group C/GTP Racing series but unfortunately circumstances precluded this and since then the Cougar has served solely as a track day car giving rides to Creation's VIP customers and sponsors, driven by team drivers Jamie Cambell-Walter and Nicolas Minassian (now with the Peugeot LMP1 team) and the vendor. Painstakingly and constantly maintained to the very highest of race preparation standards, the car has virtually always been run on the low turbocharger boost of 0.9 bar and with no more than two hours running time at maximum boost - 1.6 bar when 650bhp is produced at 7,850rpm. Chassis C02-02 was also the subject of a major feature, together with the vendor's Ligier JS3-Cosworth, when it was tested by motoring journalist Paul Chudecki in the May 2007 issue of Octane magazine. Always a Courage Competition works car (bar its brief time in America in 1986) and finished in the same livery it carried at Le Mans in 1993, this Cougar C26S has also benefited from a recent gearbox rebuild. Throughout its various model changes, this evolutionary machine has consistently retained its original monocoque and it is offered in absolutely race-ready condition compete with two sets of wheels with wet and dry tyres and one spare set of BBS wheels. Believed to be the only Cougar/Courage car of its era in one hundred per cent running condition, this potent and beautifully presented C26S would, in the right hands, surely be amongst the head of the field in historic Group C/GTP races. With its impeccable pedigree, this is also an opportunity for any serious connoisseur or collector to acquire an important part of both French and sports-prototype racing history.


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