BMW’s glory days


PiquetAs Mike Doodson writes in this month’s excellent cover story, BMW has bottled it. The manufacturer has backed out of Formula 1 without reaching its goal of winning the World Championship for the first time since 1983. Back then, its partnership with Brabham bore fruit largely thanks to the persistence and ambition of Nelson Piquet, not to mention a dash of Gordon Murray genius.

The Brabham BT52 is not only one of the most gorgeous Grand Prix cars of the 1980s, it is also one of the most gorgeous Grand Prix cars full stop. When we decided to run Mike’s story on the back of BMW’s recent withdrawal, we set ourselves a tough task: to find and photograph one of the arrow-nosed beauties.

The BMW museum in Munich has one, so we made enquiries to head over to shoot it. Typically, BMW was very helpful. But I knew there was another closer to home. The trouble was it is owned by Bernie Ecclestone, who is never keen on showing off his prized collection of F1 cars.

But to my surprise, Bernie said yes, we could send a snapper along to capture those needle-point lines, stylish pinstripes and evocative Parmalat livery. Motor Sport favourite Marc Wright was duly despatched and the stunning result is our November cover image. To my knowledge, we are the first magazine that Ecclestone has allowed to gain access to a car in his collection, aside from the show he put on at the Bahrain GP this year. We are honoured.

Piquet is often overlooked for his achievements during the 1980s, when he claimed no less than three world titles. Perhaps it’s because of his character, the unsavoury side of which emerged once again during the race-fixing controversy involving his son and Renault. Nigel Roebuck’s Reflections column is the best thing I’ve read on the affair. As usual, our man puts this latest drama into suitable perspective.

Nigel has also been talking to his old friend Mario Andretti this month, revisiting a lesser-known era of the great American’s career: his early days on the devilish dirt ovals in sprint cars. And another US legend is featured, too. Simon Taylor achieves his ambition of adding Dan Gurney to his celebrated ‘Lunch with…’ series, a testament to Simon’s reputation given that Gurney is refusing to be interviewed by anyone else because of his forthcoming autobiography. The experience didn’t disappoint Simon – it’s one of the best lunches he’s enjoyed so far.

There are plenty of other highlights in the November issue: Andrew Frankel on McLaren’s new road car, the MP4-12C (bit of a mouthful, that!), a test of David Brown’s very own Aston Martin DB2 Le Mans veteran, the return of our popular ‘Track Visits’ feature and a portrait of a little-known hero of the 1960s, Boley Pittard.

But another coup for us is Adam Sweeting’s interview with infamous F1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke, a man who has faced so much criticism over the years for his interpretation of the shape of the modern race track. He’s wary of the press for good reason and it took a full year for Adam to convince him to be interviewed on our behalf. Once again, our persistence paid off and we’ve been rewarded with an enlightening insight into the world of designing circuits for Bernie, governments and race fans in every corner of the globe.

Finally, I have to mention the free stickers and poster included in this issue. Roary the Racing Car might not mean much to you, but I’ll bet it means an awful lot to your kids and grandkids! This freeze-frame animated TV show is hugely popular and is introducing motor racing to youngsters all over the world. With narration from Sir Stirling Moss, Roary is a modern motor racing phenomenon.

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