The obvious intention of BRM to make another bid for honours in Formula 1 races, in spite of the diminishing number of such races on the 1952 Calendar, focuses attention on what has been done, since the debacle at Monza last year, in an endeavour to stamp out the failures wiich have attended the cars from Bourne since Raymond Mays fathered them with a significant element of the British Motor Industry as midwife six years ago.
The following information on the present position and intentions of the BRM has been obtained from BRMA official scources–Alfred Owen, of the Owen Organisation, is the Chairman of BRM Ltd.
Stirling Moss tried a BRM over the Monza circuit and reported as follows :
1. The real difficulty in handling this car springs from the fact that it becomes unbalanced very easily -ie when it is put Into a drift or slide, no sooner had this begun than the car gives a flick sideways, in a small but troublesome oversteer ; this characteristic is made worse if the surface is bumpy.
2. The car has a dangerous trick of understeering excessively on a trailing throttle, which, although undesirable, is sometimes unavoidable. This was found to decrease if the anti-roll bar was made thinner, or completely done away with.
3. The car’s handling definitely improved a lot in the wet if the anti-roll bar was removed, but when tried in this condition in the dry it was bad.
When a very thin anti-roll bar was fittest, the cornering in the dry on slow (up to 70 mph) bends was improved over the thicker bar : but when it came to fast curves (over 120 and up to 165 mph) a high-pitch patter developed and the other bar was found superior.
4. On fast curves the front end of the car drifts out too far showing that the wheels do not grip sufficiently. This makes it difficult to steer the car accurately whilst drifting.
5. On watching the front wheels closely whilst cornering, I found that they wobbled sideways, as well as-the usual up and down suspension movement. This wobbling was apparent on the track-rods as well as the wheels -and, although considerable, no judder whatsoever was felt at the steering wheel, pointing to the fact that there must be considerable play in the layout. In actual fact, I found that one could move the steering wheel five to seven inches without the car’s direction being affected. Whilst the car was on ramps I turned the steering wheel 10 inches with only one inch movement on the road wheels. Could a rack-and-pinion steering be tried ?
6, With the driving position as it is now, the steering ratio is too low, due to the fact that one’s arms get tied up before a correction can be effected. This fault may be corrected when the driver has more room between himself and the steering wheel.
7. Driving position is bad because: (a) The driver is much too close to the wheel. (b) Brake pedal and throttle are too far apart ; this could be corrected simply by turning the brake pedal pad round. (c) The seat back is too erect and I think it would be more comfortable and a better layout if it was leant back 5 to 10 deg more. The padding around-the.shoulders is very good but I should like a little more in the small of my back and stronger sides to the seat. Pedal distance is excellent, for myself.
8. I think the rear end of the car is excellent, also the brakes.
9. The top gear seemed to be about right for Monza, as far as I could judge. It would be an advantage if third gear was lowered a bit so that both Lesmo and Pave, could be taken in this gear. Fourth could be a fraction higher, I think, but until we get the car’s roadholding improved it is difficult to say what speed one can get round the Grande Curve in that gear.
During these tests four piston failures were experienced ; three due to preignition, one due to dirty fuel. Two rocker pads began to break up. After a few laps mis-firing set in. New plugs cured this for five laps, then the trouble recurred. Three engines were put out of service owing to the main bearings breaking up.
To off-set these failings considerable redesign has taken place.. A new steering box has been devised, backlash eliminated from the steering joints, and a Burman steering gear is being experimented with to further reduce the ratio from 22 to 1 to 18 or 19 to 1. The rear-hub assemblies and radius arms have been altered, a new trailing-strut designed for the ifs, a new front engine-bearer has been incorporated to increase torsional rigidity of the chassis, and more rigid front stub-axle assemblies with steel back-plates prepared. In 900 miles at Monza the-Ferodo brake linings showed an average rate of wear of only 0.1 in, but disc brakes are likely to be used this year, resulting in a reduction in unsprung weight. The steering column has been more firmly mounted, larger section front tyres have been fitted, and detail improvements made to seat, steering position, body fasteners etc.
The mis-fire was largey elliminated by reducing the plug gaps from 0.012 in to 0.008 in, new single piece steel rockers fitted to replace the weaker type, and the engine lubrication system modified in the hope of obviating further bearing failure. Difficulty experienced during bench tests due to the rapid torque increase relative to rpm upsetting the automatic control gear of the dynamometer has been overcome, and the BRM engine shows notable comparative economy of fuel. Stirling Moss seems very content with the modifications made and, subject to further tests, will sign on to drive in all Formula 1 and Formule Libre races for which BRM enter. Fangio is to drive the second car if he, too, is satisfied after trying it, which he is likely to do at Monza early this month. Ken Wharton has also been trying the car at Folkingham.
The plan this year is to enter two cars for all the more important races for which the BRM is still eligible, although not in short races such as those at Goodwood. The cars’ first engagement is likely to be the GP d’Europe at Spa on June 22nd, unless an earlier race is announced. Although only two cars will be run, spares will soon exist for the assembly of five or six cars.
Raymond Mays, BRM’s originator, is the PRO, and designer Peter Berthon remains responsible for technical development. Ken Richardson has left and Tony Rudd takes his place, responsible for routine testing, etc. Berthon is likely to act also as Team Manager. AF Rivers Fletcher, PRO of the Owen Organisation, is giving a series of lectures on the BRM project, which have been drawing enthusiastic audiences, and the BRMA still has some 4,000 members.
We want sincerely to see a British car supreme in GP racing and can only hope that BRM have overcome past technical troubles and organisational shortcomings, and that, in those races left open to them, they will win this season, preferably against strong Ferrari opposition (Alfa-Romeo definitely will not compete). It is particularly important to Mays that BRM should succeed this time ; if the cars do well discussions will quickly follow as to BRM policy under the 1954 Formula.
The general change from Formula I to Formula II is unfortunate for BRM but they can hardly grumble, having on only one occasion aroused any spectator admiration during a classic long-distance race. For their sake, and that of British prestige, we hope and prey that the green cars from Bourne will yet win honours, at Spa, at Barcelona, and at Boreham, where a 200-mile Formula Libre race is due on August 2nd, and in the RAC British GP, should this be organised by the BRDC as a Formule I or Formula Libre race. The latter arrangement, with a special prize as at Boreham for the first Formula II car to finish (which it might even be ahead of the Formula I entry), may well be in the best interests of all parties.
As we go to Press, we hear with great delight from Monza that two of the cars are doing extremely well and are up to expectations. Dare we hope that BRM will run at Turin on April 11th ? By the time you read this we shall all know whether they will or not, -and if they do the wishes of every Motor Sport reader will be : “May good fortune attend them.”