F1 CONSTRUCTOR SPOTLIGHT: BRABHAM

Jack Brabham is the only driver in the history of the sport to win an F1 World Championship in a car bearing his own name. Records are meant to be broken, so the saying says, but we are quite sure that this one will never ever be equalled, let alone, eclipsed.

The Brabham F1 team raced in Formula One from 1962 until 1987 and then again from 1989-1992.

Jack Brabham set up his eponymous team with Ron Tauranac but only after the original name, MRD, was scrapped after someone pointed out that, if said rapidly in French, it sounded like something dogs did on the pavement.

The first wins for the new team came courtesy of Dan Gurney in the French and Mexican Grands Prix’s in 1964. 1965, however, was a write off thanks to the super fast Lotus’.

1965, however, was a write off thanks to the super fast Lotus’.

It was in 1966 that Brabham, in his Brabham, made history. To win an F1 race is an achievement and to win a Championship is incredible. To set up your own team and make it to Formula One is no mean feat. To win a race and then a Championship in your own team…..that is ridiculous. That season saw Brabham first retire at Monaco then finish fourth at Spa. It was at the following race in France that he made his first bit of history, winning his first race in his car. Three more consecutive wins in Britain, Netherlands and Germany followed and thus secured the Championship and another slice of history.

Deny Hulme won his and Brabham’s second Championship the following season thanks to the consistent repco engine compared to the new, yet less consistent, Ford DFV. That, though, was as good as it got for Brabham and the team. Brabham himself retired from the sport after a competitive 1970 season, and the team struggled before Tauranac sold the company to one Bernie Ecclestone.

Brabhams history can be placed into two phases, the ‘Brabham’ phase, that saw two drivers and constructors’ championships, and the Ecclestone phase. Where the Brabham phase saw Jack himself as the cornerstone, the Ecclestone era was defined by a certain Nelson Piquet.

Where the Brabham phase saw Jack himself as the cornerstone, the Ecclestone era was defined by a certain Nelson Piquet.

Piquet joined the team in 1978, and he won the Drivers World Championship in 1981 and 1983, but the team, thanks to an unreliable BMW engine and poor backup drivers to Piquet, couldn’t win the Constructors’ Championship in either season.

It was a prosperous time for the team and Piquet’s success was built on the back of Ecclestone’s running of the team and the brilliance of South African designer, Gordon Murray.

Murray was known for designing beautiful and unusual cars and one such car was the legendary ‘fan car’.

The BT46B, to combat the era of ground effect, where cars used the underside to create higher downforce without the loss of straight line speed, was a car with a fan mounted to its rear. Now, that may sound stupid, but hear us out. The fan, rather than intricate underside aerodynamics, was used to suck the air from below the car, therefore lowering it, thus improving downforce. Even though it came across as less, shall we say, clever, than the ground effect of the lotus’ of the time, it was still an incredibly complex and well thought out innovation that Lotus themselves, upon seeing it, started to R&D. The car won its first race in Sweden, but after protests from the team and political negotiations, it was withdrawn.

The 1980’s was Brabham’s lucrative period in terms of wins and drivers championships, but as the decade went on, they became increasingly uncompetitive. Tragedy also struck in 1985 when Elio De Angelis was killed testing the BT55 in France.

At the end of 1987, Ecclestone withdrew the team, and though they reappeared in 1989, now in the hands of a Swiss financier who was convicted of fraud, the team was a shadow of its former self before it finally disappeared for good in 1992

Brabham was a record breaking team. A race win and championship for a driver in his own car was also followed by the first turbo-powered Championship win in 1983, albeit just the drivers. Constantly innovating, and giving Bernie Ecclestone the platform to eventually control F1 (that can be perceived as good or bad) Brabham were one of the truly great teams that were competitive in multiple eras, something not all great teams can claim.

 

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