Courtney signs for the Le Mans Company

Australian rising star James Courtney has signed to drive for the Le Mans Company in Formula Nippon next year. Courtney, a former Jaguar Racing test driver, won this year's Japanese Formula 3 title while also taking part in several races in Formula Nippon with the 5Zigen team, where he replaced Ryo Fukuda. Moving to the Le Mans Company makes Courtney a likely frontrunner next year as the team's drivers Toshihiro Kaneishi and Takeshi Tsuchiya finished fourth and eighth in the series this year. Kaneishi is now moving to race Formula 3000 in Europe.

The Le Mans Company team was launched by the Le Mans car parts business in 1969 and in the 1970s regularly ran Formula 1 drivers in rounds of the All Japan F2000 Championship, which was then the top racing formula in Japan. The team won its first title with Keiji Matsumoto in 1979. In the 1980s the team expanded to run a sports car operation as well and won the Formula 3 title with Akio Morimoto in 1986. The team won the All Japan Formula 3000 title in 1989 with Geoff Lees with his team mate Emanuele Pirro second. The team briefly ran Michael Schumacher in 1991 and in 1996 won the All Japan Formula 3000 title with his brother Ralf and another title followed in 1998 with Satoshi Motoyama.

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