A Piece of France in the United States: A Ligier in the IndyCar Series!

Monday May 10, 2021 by Rene Fagan

The early 1980s was a time when the IndyCar series, then called CART (Championship Auto Racing Team), attempted Formula 1. An alarming increase in the costs required to run an F1 team prompted teams and pilots to try their luck on American soil. .

In this way Guy Ligier tempted himself as well. Guy Ligier was a former rugby player, former F1 and endurance driver and big boss of the F1 team who bore his name. For many years, he represented France in F1. But since 1982, Ligier has been occupying the rear of single-seater opening gates. The 1983 car, the JS21 powered by Ford-Cosworth, was not a success and did not score a point in the World Championship.

It was during the 1983 season that Ligier received a call from American Mike Curb. This millionaire is an artist, songwriter, prominent country music producer, businessman and Republican Party politician. He is also very interested in auto racing, especially NASCAR and now the CART series.

Karb asks Ligier if he can supply him two cars for cart cars, as he is not really interested in buying Lola or March, like every other team does. An agreement was reached in October 1983 and design work began in November. This only gives the technical team led by Jean-Claude Guenard and Michel Beaujon five months to work.

Converting F1 to IndyCar is not easy …

So the team is starting with the F1 JS21, but many changes must be made, especially in terms of the aluminum hull edge. Production of the frame is assigned to John Fisher in the United Kingdom. Then, the new Ligier-Curb team based on the Eberrest in Allier bought five Ford-Cosworth DFX Turbo 2.6-liter engines, a modified Hewland DGB gearbox housing and a fuel tank with a 40-liter gallon or 152-liter capacity. In the hull, by regulation.

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If the two planned LC02s are assembled in France, the cars will be operated and developed in Santa Ana, California by AAR, Dan Gurney’s all-American racers. Funding is provided by Curb Records and American beverage importer Dubonnet. Dany Hindenoch, Ligier’s sports director, oversees the Curb-Ligier Association and the LC02 program.

On the driver’s side, Guy Ligier would have preferred to hire F1 driver’s Derek Daly, who has experience in Indigo racing. However, Karb enforced his choice, American Kevin Kogan, a former Formula Atlantic driver, who has been seen trying to qualify for F1 twice in 1980. The structure also includes a fixed Mike Chandler who, before touching his Ligier LC02, will drive one. EAR 84 with a Pontiac engine from the AAR team. Michael Chandler is the son of Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler.

The first event of the Ligier-Curb team is in early April in Long Beach, California. The first LC02 is completed to arrive at the circuit on Thursday, one day before the first test. So the car was never driven. On the track, Kogan quickly discovered a car that was not too agile and too heavy. During qualifying, the driveshaft breaks and Kogan finishes 21st out of 28. Mario Andretti placed his Lola T800 in pole position with a time of 1’06 “263, while Kogan couldn’t do better than the 1’09: 912 … Kogan race. Stays on three laps. This rugged – On rough road circuits, a driveshaft clears once again.

The next race is at the small one-mile oval in Phoenix. After completing a few laps, Cogan exits LC02 and jumps into Chandler’s eagle. Ligier suffers from a huge overstair. In each curve, the rear axle is suddenly slipped. Poor Mike Chandler inherited Ligier, and did not qualify. At the top of the Eagles, Kogan finished the race in eighth place.

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Then came the Indianapolis 500-mile test. Ligier is still so wicked to drive. Even more so than the Phoenix, as the high speed reached at the brickyard only exacerbates its handling problems. After four days of testing and not exceeding the 184 mph mark, Kogan released Ligier and jumped into the Eagle. Actually.

Mike Curb and Guy Ligier find that the LC02 is not efficient, unpredictable, dangerous, and slow, be it on a road circuit, a small oval or a superspeedway. The deal has been scrapped and the only and only Ligier LC02, which has never been re-run, is currently on display at the Curb Museum in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

* Sorry for the poor quality of the above photo. The Ligier LC02 has run so low on the track that there are very few pictures of this car in action …

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About the Author: Piers Parker

Alcohol maven. Incurable pop culture specialist. Communicator. Gamer. Certified explorer.

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