GRR

The new Brabham BT62 – everything you need to know

01st May 2018
Bob Murray

Like father, like son: Brabham is back on track. After a 12-year battle to regain control of his famous family name and put it on the nose of a new car, David Brabham today (May 2nd) unveiled the BT62 – along with the aim of seeing a Brabham race at Le Mans.

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The first new machine to wear a Brabham badge since 1992, the 700bhp mid-engined V8 BT62 made its debut at Australia House in London. Its green-and-gold livery reflects traditional Australian sporting colours, as used by triple F1 World Champion Sir Jack Brabham when he won the French Grand Prix in 1969. 

The car’s Anglo-Australian heritage is further reflected in a manufacturing facility in Adelaide, South Australia, where the plan is to build 70 of the cars for customers around the world, each selling at £1 million plus options, plus local taxes. The number 70 reflects the years since Sir Jack made his competition debut in Australia. 

“It’s with great pride that I honour and continue my father’s legacy in revealing the next chapter in the evolving Brabham story,” said Brabham Automotive managing director David Brabham at the unveiling in London on Wednesday evening. 

“I set out 12 years ago to re-establish the iconic Brabham name, determined to see it return to global competition. My father had an incredible determination to succeed and, like him, I’ve worked tirelessly through this time, drawing on my experience as a racing driver, leader and mentor, never once losing sight of that goal.

“It’s been challenging at times, but what we have achieved is simply staggering. The Brabham BT62 is a car truly worthy of carrying the iconic Brabham name.”

If the realisation of David Brabham’s dream has been a while coming it is as much to do with his battle to win back rights to the name as any protracted development of the car. That has flown along. With a team headed by director of engineering and technology Paul Birch, BT62 has gone from clean sheet of paper to finished prototypes in two years. First deliveries are expected later in 2018 with the first 35 cars to be liveried in tribute to each of Brabham’s 35 Formula One Grand Prix victories. 

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We have had some details of the car already but with its unveiling, we can see just what a serious machine it is – and an obvious rival (on track at least) for cars like the McLaren Senna GTR and Aston Martin Vulcan, or even Valkyrie AMR Pro. Weight and downforce may be Brabham advantages but rivals have more power.

Like Aston and McLaren, Brabham plans to offer a driver development programme to show owners how to get the best out of the car. Helping owners get the best has been a Brabham trait since the beginning, one of the factors why the firm became the world’s largest manufacturer of single-seat racing cars in the 1960s, just five years after building its first. The new company is adamant this part of the “Brabham DNA” will be carried over.

The BT62’s ”best” promises to be a considerable amount. Here is a mid-engined, slick-shod (courtesy of Michelin) coupe with a naturally-aspirated 5.4-litre V8. That’s right, for the constructor that clinched the first turbocharged F1 title in 1983, there’s no sign of a turbo here.

The engine serves up 700bhp and 492lb-ft of torque to a Holinger sequential six-speed transmission driving the rear wheels. The suspension is by double wishbones front and rear, there are Ohlins dampers and adjustable anti-roll bars. Brakes are Brembo carbon/carbon featuring six-piston calipers, and wheels are racing centre-lock. An air jack system is built into the car.

The power output may be unexceptional these days but the power-weight ratio is impressive: Brabham is claiming 720bhp per tonne. The carbon-fibre car’s (dry) weight is 972kg, which is below that of rivals – no surprise perhaps when you see how pared back the car is inside. As shown, the BT62 is track-only with no concessions to creature comforts. The interior is stripped and ready for racing, with most of what you see either carbon or Alcantara. There are no luxuries like air-con on the options list – though you can get a passenger seat. The other exceptional number is 1,200 kg which is the amount of downforce the BT62 generates. You certainly won’t miss the BT62’s dual-element (and adjustable) rear wing, and the diffuser and splitter are similarly XL-size. It amounts to a very aggressive aero package, though F1 followers may be disappointed to learn there is no giant “fan” sucking the car to the ground… Design-wise, it has a pleasing if derivative mid-engined supercar profile.

Engineering chief Paul Birch said: “The BT62 is a car that demands total engagement and commitment from its driver, delivering immense reward and satisfaction.” There are no lap times or performance figures so far.

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Brabham Automotive says its ultimate goal is “to see the Brabham name return once again to compete on the race track, with the 24 Hours of Le Mans firmly in its sights”. 

The sight of the Brabham racing at La Sarthe would indeed be wonderful; the sight of a Brabham car with a Brabham driver behind the wheel would make it one of motor sport’s most poignant moments. Unlikely now perhaps, but if it happened it would revisit the feat (in 1966) of Sir Jack who remains the only driver in Formula One to win a World Championship in a car he constructed himself.

Father and all three Brabham sons raced at Le Mans. Sir Jack, who died in 2014, actually won there in 1967, but that was in the Formula One French Grand Prix held on the Bugatti circuit that year, the only F1 race ever to have taken place at Le Mans. Sir Jack’s Le Mans endurance efforts – in ’57 with Cooper, Aston in ’58 and then with Matra in 1970 – were less successful. Unlike that of his sons, especially David who with McLaren, Bentley, Aston Martin and Peugeot has had 18 starts in the 24 Hours and won three times, including an overall victory in 2009. 

When, how and with what Brabham will compete at Le Mans is still under wraps. Unlike period racing rivals such as McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus, Brabham has never produced a road car and without one homologation for the newly-revitalised GTE class will be impossible. But there are enough finished details on the BT62 – the rear lights are a good example – to suggest that it will be made street-legal at some point. Perhaps at the same time that McLaren comes clean and confirms the Senna GTR is going to compete at Le Mans.

Then we’ll have a truly epic British hypercar tussle on our hands. BT62 vs Senna vs Aston Valkyrie on both road and track….what a prospect that is.

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