Sports Cars - BRM

A Fresh Start

The history of British Racing Motors is essentially a story of hopes and heartbreaks in the world of Grand Prix racing, but the BRM marque was represented twice at Le Mans, in 1963 and again in 1965, using the Rover gas turbine engine, and will be again next year. The revival of the BRM name was announced at the Racing Car Show in January as a result of an agreement between Rubery Owen and John Mangoletsi, head of the Mangoletsi Design Group.

It hardly seemed possible that BRM would return to World Championship racing in the 1990s – and there are two projects, one for a 3½-litre Group C car, the P351, and another for a twin supercharged 4-litre road car, the P401, both powered by 48-valve V12 engines – but John Owen, son of the late Sir Alfred Owen, was on hand at the announcement to give final authenticity to the project.

”We have received many approaches over the years,” he confirmed, “But this is the first one that we have felt really worthy of the BRM name. It took the board a long time to reach its decision, and we are delighted with the way the two projects are taking shape.”

John Mangoletsi, head off the well-known engineering group, set up the design company two years ago with Paul Brown installed as the design director. Brown has a long history in racing car design encompassing Chevron, Maurer, March, CCM Motorcycles and Zakspeed, and had the outline of the P351 completed early in 1990.

The Mangoletsi Group C car design was disclosed to a number of teams last summer, and Richard Lloyd showed interest. Eventually though, the approach to Rubery Owen was the one that succeeded, and it didn’t go against Mangoletsi that he was a friend of John Owen at the Oundle School. Clearly the two men like and trust each other, and had the basis of a good working relationship.

Ian Dawson, Richard Lloyd’s team manager for the past two seasons, has been appointed manager of the BRM Team and will effectively control the Group C project on a day-to-day basis. He expects the first racing car to be ready in August, and if the testing goes well it could be entered for the last two races of the season, at Mexico and Autopolis in October. No approaches have been made to drivers, as yet, but Dawson is known to be extremely impressed by Manuel Reuter, the young German who drove Lloyd’s Porsche to fourth place at Montreal last September.

A main element of the package is the V12 engine, and although its antecedents go back 22 years it’s based on the Weslake V12, not the BRM of the same era. Based is the right word, though, because the 60-degree block is about all that remains of the original design. In the last two years the V12 has been totally redesigned by Graham Dale-Jones, formerly of Cosworth and now with Terry Hoye’s preparation company.

The adoption of the power unit by BRM is now in its final stages, and if all goes well the V12 should bear the distinctive sign-writing on the cam-covers when next seen. In 3.5-litr racing trim it is expected to develop “over 600 horsepower”, but for road use it will be taken out to 4-litre capacity and will develop an easy 400 bhp, according to Mangoletsi, with twin superchargers commanded by the engine management system. Both cars will drive through a BRM six-speed gearbox, the racing car with Hewland internals and the road model with ZF synchromesh gears.

Some of BRM’s old associations will be revived, with Shell for fuel and lubricants, with Dunlop for the tyres, with Motor Panes for the bodywork (they supplied the bodywork for the Le Mans turbine cars), and with AP for the carbon brake and clutch systems. The association with Courtaulds is a new one, for the British firm to manufacture composite materials monocoques for the two BRM models.

The road version, to be developed in the wake of the racing car, is expected to cost around £200,000 at today’s values, and the first should go on sale in 1993.

BRM Limited, the new company in which Rubery Owen has a 51% stake, is based at Mangoletsi’s headquarters in Congleton, Cheshire, where Paul Brown has installed a rolling road wind tunnel, but the racing team will have a new base at the Donington Park Circuit. There, Ian Dawson will have at his disposal the new Precision Technology system for logging each scrap of test information, a system that other teams are likely to adopt in the near future.

The system can position the car within 1 centimetre all the way round the track in ‘real time’ telemetry, and take measurements of all of the dynamic functions every ten milliseconds. The printout will also show the slip angle of the tyres pinpointing under- and over-steer tendencies, and yaw angles. This is, of course, one of the Mangoletsi Group’s developments along with ever more sophisticated on-board instrument panels.

Time will tell whether the new BRM projects will recapture the golden moments of the sixties, but the presence of the 1962 P57 Formula 1 car, and the 1965 Rover-BRM coupé, on the stand were evocative enough.

There was no sign of a large, florid gentleman once dubbed ‘Lord Louis’, to remind us of the declining years. As John Mangoletsi said, “This is an entirely fresh start, and we are committed to making it succeed.”

MOTOR SPORT wishes every success to the 1990s-style BRM team. MLC