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Group C: The Rise and Fall of the Golden Age of Endurance Racing: Cars and Constructors Part 3

Submitted by on April 5, 2019

By Marcel Hundscheid / Speed-O-Graphica

In this third part of our Group C retrospective we invite to take a closer look at Cheetah Automobiles and Courage Competition.

Cheetah Automobiles

Cheetah Automobiles, based in Lausanne (Switzerland), was started in 1971 by Swiss-American engineer and racing driver Chuck Graemiger. Three years after the start up he built his first car the 01G, followed by two-litre sports cars.

Under Group C-rules, he built two cars – the G603 from 1983 and G604 from 1984. The G603 was powered by a 4.0 liter Cosworth DFV and the G604 used an Aston Martin V8. Besides the two cars mentioned Graemiger built a third car, known as the G606.

The G603 ran in Graemiger’s own works team. The team attempted to enter the 1983 Le Mans 24 Hours with Loris Kessel, Laurent Ferrier and Florian Vetsch, but didn’t quite get there. As the team didn’t enter Le Mans, the G603 debuted at Spa. The team ran the G604 in 1984 and 1985, but did not find significant success with it.

Graemiger’s next car was designed to the latest Formula 1-inspired Group C rules. Originally Graemiger dubbed the car G606, but before completion it was renamed to SGR001. At the time, Graemiger had a new partner, Fred Statler and his team Racing Organisation Course. In this way the car was renamed ROC 002.

The car entered the 1991 Le Mans 24 Hours as it was built to the F1 regulations. Despite making it to fifth place on the grid, the ROC 002 suffered from mechanical problems and was forced to retire. The car pictured above and below is the sole ROC 002 built, seen in action at the Spa Classic in 2017

Courage Competition

Yves Courage founded Courage Competition in 1981. Before he founded his own racing team he raced cars from 1972 including hill climbing and the Le Mans 24 Hours. During the 1981 edition of the Great Race, he finished 18th with Jean-Philippe Grand, winning their category in the process. From this point Courage decided to found his own team and started to build his own car known as the Cougar C01 under Group C regulations.

The car wasn’t reliable and after 78 laps at Le Mans had to retire. The Courage C01 was followed by a modified version of the C01 in 1983 and the C02 in 1984. Both cars failed to bring Courage the success he hoped for, believed to mainly be down to heavy vibrations from the Ford V8-engine he used.

From 1985 Courage started to use Porsche engines, although he had to adapt the chassis, as the Porsche engine was basically a turbo flat-6. The new car was known as the Courage C12 and with it Courage Competition finished the 1986 Le Mans 24 Hours. His biggest success came in 1987 as his Courage C20 finished 3rd. In the World Sports Car Championship from 1987 he finished 8th in the manufacturers’ standing of the World Sportscar Championship.

In 1991 Courage Competition introduced the latest evolution known as the Cougar C26S, although it was still a development of the original design. With a conventional design the C26S featured an aluminium monocoque and was powered by a flat-six twin turbo Porsche engine. From the two cars that entered the Le Mans 24 Hours just a single one made it to the finish (11th overall). From two rounds of the World Sportscar Championship, the best result was a ninth place.

Pictured above and below is chassis C02-02 known as a Cougar C26S. Originally this car saw life as a Cougar C02 in 1983 and evolved through the C12 and C22 into the C26S, but did not find significant success. After being displayed for many years at the Le Mans museum the car was acquired and restored into running order. Seen here it appeared at the 2018 Spa Classic.

By Marcel Hundscheid / Speed-O-Graphica

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