GRR

When Sir Jackie Stewart’s BRM P261 returned to Goodwood

12th May 2022
Andrew Willis

At the 2021 Goodwood Revival, we celebrated 70 years of British Racing Motors. The iconic British marque has many accolades, wins, and famous drivers associated with its long history, but none we’d wager are more important or world famous than Sir Jackie Stewart. And as we explored the BRM paddocks on a picture-perfect September day, one of his cars in particular stood out as the prettiest entrant amongst an entire avenue of beauty queens. It was of course the 1964 BRM P261, with its tartan seat upholstery and number seven emblazoned against its understated livery.

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The BRM P261 really is one exceptionally beautiful piece of British engineering. And as I stood admiring, the co-owner of the car – Mr Jaime Bergel – introduced himself and his family before showing us around his pride and joy.

“This is something very special. It's made every more special because it was driven by Sir Jackie Stewart in 1965. It took his first Formula One win at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix. It also took his first Monaco win, the year after in 1966. In that sense it is a very iconic car indeed.”

As a summary of this car’s importance, that’s concise and on the money. Looking deeper, the BRM P261 enjoyed success at the hands of both Stewart and his BRM works team mate Graham Hill. Notching up a total of six World Championship race wins, taking the P261 to second in both the Drivers' and Constructors' Championship standings in 1964 and 1965.

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Later, Stewart, Hill and Richard Attwood would use the works P261s to compete in the Tasman Series in New Zealand in 1966. An event where the BRMs dominated, with Stewart winning four races and the title, Hill two races, and Attwood one of the eight race series.

So successful was the car it remained racing within Formula One World Championship Grands Prix right into the 1968 season. Which speaks volumes about its capabilities within a period where the pace of innovation and change was arguably faster than it is today.

Incredibly, this is also the car that Sir Jackie had his famous accident at the old Spa, where he aquaplaned off the circuit during a horrendous Ardennes downpour, smashing into a telephone pole and then landing in a ditch at Masta Kink where he would sit for 25 minutes, drowning in fuel and struggling to get himself out of the car. It was only after Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant, both of whom had gone off close to Stewart, managed to rescue him after borrowing a spectator's toolkit. Enabling them to unscrew the steering wheel. An experience that would go a long way into Sir Jackie campaigning to improve safety in motor sport for the rest of his career, while also prompting him to race from then on with a spanner secured to his steering wheel with electrical tape.

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Explaining how he came to co-own such a car, Mr Bergel was quick to explain the significance of the car: “Jackie Stewart was my hero. The first race I went to in my life was the 1970 Spanish Grand Prix, which Jackie won. And so he became my racing hero. My mother took me when I was four years old. She was a huge racing fan. She actually wanted Graham Hill to win because she thought he was much better looking.” A victory of sorts, presented by Mr Bergel’s mother, that we’re sure the cheeky Graham would absolutely love to hold over Sir Jackie’s head. 

“In fact, Hill didn't do very well on the day as he was still recovering from his 1969 accident.” A horror crash at Watkins Glen that broke both his legs, and one which Hill was lucky to survive.

“After my daughter, it's the thing I adore most in life. I am obsessed with this car, because of the Jackie Stewart connection, and also after watching the film Grand Prix. So one day Rick Hall told me that Richard Attwood, who co-owns the car with me, had a previous co-owner who would consider selling. So I told Richard that I'm definitely interested," says Bergel as he continued to show us around the car with its original spec but re-built mid-mounted 1,498cc naturally aspirated V8 engine.

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“Yesterday when we went on the Parade, it was almost an emotional experience to see all the BRMs together. And obviously, I'm not English, but for the UK, BRM is very special. It started after the war, and the objective was to manufacture an all-British car. And absolutely everything in this car is UK made. The chassis, the engine, the gearbox. Everything is BRM. It was such a pity that the company folded how it did in 1977. I would have loved to see BRM road cars today, like Ferrari in a way.”

Mr Bergel has driven this car himself at the Festival of Speed presented by MasterCard and during several test days at UK circuits, where he suggests the handling is absolutely sublime. It’s a car with spades of natural mechanical grip and a real joy to drive. “It is extraordinary, honestly.”

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Re-affirming his love for all things BRM, Mr Bergel also offered us a look at his BRM P153 – the Jackie Oliver and Pedro Rodriguez car. A different beast altogether, but one with more impressive history against its name, having been the car in which Oliver had his huge 1970 Spanish Grand Prix accident, and the car that Rodriquez would claim the last ever F1 victory at the old Spa.

Closing our chat, Mr Bergel signed off with a word for last year’s event: “It’s difficult to explain to my friends in Spain who haven't been here just how incredible Revival is. Goodwood is just unbelievable.” We agree, and thank him for bringing his equally unbelievable collection of historically significant and achingly pretty BRMs to what was yet another glorious Revival. A couple of genuine highlights among our BRM 70-year celebration parade.

Photography by Tom Shaxson.

  • Jackie Stewart

  • BRM

  • P261

  • Graham Hill

  • Revival

  • Formula 1

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