CONSTRUCTORS: BRABHAM (MOTOR RACING DEVELOPMENTS LTD.)
Name: Brabham (Motor Racing Developments Ltd.)
Australian Jack Brabham made his name as a racing driver with the Cooper Car Company, winning the World Championship in 1959 and 1660 at the wheel of Cooper-Climax cars. Brabham was involved in the design of the Coopers and in 1961 he and Ron Tauranac, an engineer from Australia who was working at the Jack Brabham Motors garage and filling station in Chessington, established Motor Racing Developments Ltd. and began building a Formula Junior car in a shed in Esher. This was to be called an MRD. The project was kept secret as Brabham was still a Cooper driver and the company earned considerable money from its sale of Formula Junior cars. The car showed well in the hands of Gavin Youl.
At the end of the 1961 season Brabham left Cooper and, because MRD did not translate well into French, it was decided that future cars would be called Brabhams. They moved into premises in Surbiton which were owned by the Australian automotive parts company Repco and the first Brabham was built. The BT2 was a development of the MRD Formula Junior chassis and work began on a Formula 1 car. As this would not be ready in time for the 1962 season Brabham bought a Lotus with which to start the season. The Formula Junior did well in the hands of Brabham works driver Frank Gardner and privateer Jo Schlesser won the French Formula Junior title. Eleven cars were built. The F1 car was finished in July 1962 and the BT3 was debuted at the Nurburgring in a bright turquoise-blue color scheme. The car reappeared in September at Oulton Park where Brabham finished third in the Gold Cup and the car scored its first World Championship points at Watkins Glen in October, with Brabham finishing fourth. The year ended with Jack finishing second in Mexico (a non-championship race) and fourth in South Africa.
For the following year Brabham and Tauranac built a BT5 sportscar, a BT6 Formula Junior (of which 20 were sold) and a BT7 Formula 1 car. Brabham hired Dan Gurney to be his team-mate. The pair finished second on three occasions but it was Jim Clark's year. Brabham also ran an old car for Denny Hulme on occasion. The team finished third in the Constructors' Championship.
The company expanded rapidly with a new sportscar (BT8), of which nine were built. There were Brabham cars running in Formula 1, Formula 2, Formula 3 and at Indianapolis. That year Gurney gave the team its first F1 victory at the French GP and followed up with a second win in Mexico. Brabham himself scored a handful of points-scoring finishes. In F2 Hulme and Brabham drove the factory cars but others were sold to a variety of customers including Roy Winkelmann Racing (for Alan Rees), Ford Austria (for Jochen Rindt) and John Willment (for Gardner). The company built nearly 40 racing cars.
In 1965 Brabham began selling customer F1 cars as well with Rob Walker, Bob Anderson and John Willment all buying chassis. Brabham himself did fewer races, leaving Hulme to partner Gurney on some occasions and the year ended with Gurney finishing second in the US and Mexican GPs. The team finished third again in the Constructors' title. Brabham chassis were numerous in Formula 1 but Jim Clark won the title for Lotus.
With the new F1 regulations in 1966 Brabham convinced Repco to build him an F1 engine. Gurney decided to set up his own F1 team and so Hulme and Brabham became the factory drivers on the new Repco-engined BT19. The car debuted at Syracuse in May and won the International Trophy at Silverstone a fortnight later. At the French GP Brabham was first and Hulme third and the pair finished 1-2 at the British GP. Brabham won in Holland and Germany but retired while leading in Italy. Jack Brabham was World Champion again with Hulme fourth and the team winners of the Constructors' title.
In Formula 2 Brabham ran factory cars with Honda engines and Jack and Denny dominated. Brabham chassis won all but one of the races. That year Brabham was awarded an OBE. In 1967 Hulme and Brabham dominated again but this time it was Denny who won the World title with Brabham runner-up and the team took a second consecutive Constructors' title.
At the end of the year Hulme went to McLaren and Brabham hired Jochen Rindt to be his team-mate in 1968. Repco built a new engine but the arrival of the Ford Cosworth outclassed the Australian engine and the team struggled. Neither driver won a race. In Formula 2 Matra became a powerful force and Brabham customers slipped down the order.
With Rindt moving to Lotus in 1969 Brabham switched to Cosworth engines and hired Jacky Ickx to be his team mate. The Belgian won twice and finished second in the World Championship but it was a season dominated by Jackie Stewart's Matra-Cosworth. In Formula 2 Matra and BMW cleaned up but Brabham continued to sell a lot of cars.
The 1970 season would be Brabham's last as a driver and with Ickx moving to Ferrari, Jack hired Rolf Stommelen to be his team mate. Money was short and results were poor, although Jack won the South African GP at the start of the year and nearly won at Monaco but went off on the last lap.
At the end of the year Brabham retired and began making plans to return to Australia. He sold his half of the company to Tauranac. The team did not do well, with Graham Hill and Tim Schenken scoring only five points between them. In Formula 2 Carlos Reutemann did well and finished second in the European Championship. The company was making money but Tauranac was tired and at the start of 1972 he sold the company to Bernie Ecclestone and went into temporary retirement, although he would later return to Europe to start the successful Ralt company.
Ecclestone began to make changes towards the end of the year - another not very successful season with driver Graham Hill and Reutemann. For the 1973 season he promoted designer Gordon Murray to be chief designer and the South African designed the BT42 and these were raced by Reutemann and Wilson Fittipaldi, while an older car was run for Andrea de Adamich and, after the Italian was injured, by John Watson and Rolf Stommelen. There were no wins and Brabham finished fourth in the World Championship. In Formula 2 the company faded as March and Surtees came to the fore and at the end of the year Ecclestone closed down the racing car production side of the business.
The BT44 was raced in F1 in 1974 by Carlos Reutemann and a string of pay-drivers which included Richard Robarts, Rikki von Opel and Lella Lombardi. Eventually the car was passed on to Carlos Pace. An older car was supplied to the Hexagon team for John Watson to drive. Reutemann won three races but the team slipped to fifth in the Constructors' title.
For the 1975 season Ecclestone landed sponsorship from Martini and Reutemann and Pace drove B versions of the BT44. Each won a race and they scored enough other placings to give the team second place in the Constructors' title with Reutemann third and Pace sixth in the Drivers' Championship. The team then began a relationship with Alfa Romeo and Murray built the all-new BT45 to house the flat-12 Italian engine. A secondary team was established to run old cars for Loris Kessel and other pay-drivers and this was run by RAM Racing. Neither team was successful and Reutemann switched to Ferrari at the end of the year, leaving his car to Larry Perkins.
John Watson was hired to replace Reutemann and the 1977 season began on a note of optimism as Pace finished second in Argentina. A few days after the South African GP he was killed in a flying accident in Brazil. Hans Stuck was hired to replace him but he and Watson scored only three podium finishes.
Martini left at the end of the year but Ecclestone signed up Parmalat as a replacement and hired World Champion Niki Lauda to be Watson's team mate. Murray produced the remarkable BT46, an angular device which featured surface cooling. This did not work and the car was revised and Watson finished third when the car was debuted in South Africa. The ground-effect Lotus was the dominant car that year and Murray came up with his own version of the idea, producing the BT46B - known as the Fan Car, which used a fan for cooling the engine and creating a partial vacuum under the car. Lauda won the Swedish GP but it was banned soon afterwards by the sport's governing body, the FIA. The car was revised again as the BT46C and Lauda won again in Italy. The team finished third in the Constructors' title. Watson moved to McLaren and Ecclestone signed up Nelson Piquet as Lauda's partner. There was a new V12 engine from Alfa Romeo but the BT49 cars were not very reliable. Lauda won the non-championship Dino Ferrari Grand Prix at Imola but in Canada announced that he was retiring immediately. Ecclestone signed up pay-driver Ricardo Zunino to replace him.
The team had gone as far as it was going to go with Alfa Romeo and as the Italians were planning their own operation, Brabham switched back to Cosworth power. Murray revised the BT49 and Piquet was able to win three races in 1980. The following year he won three more races and took the World Championship after a string of good finishes.
In the course of 1981 Brabham began testing BMW turbocharged engines but these were not used regularly until the end of 1982, by which time Piquet's new team mate Riccardo Patrese had won a curious victory at Monaco.
Later that year Piquet won the Canadian GP with a BMW-engined car but for the rest of the season the Munich engines proved to be unreliable. That year the FIA reintroduced re-fuelling at pitstops into F1, enabling Piquet and Patrese to run on half tanks. The BT53 appeared in 1983 and Piquet was able to win three victories and take his second World Championship. Patrese won one race and the team finished third in the Constructors' title. The 1984 season was not a success. Piquet won twice but the cars were very unreliable and Teo Fabi was not able to make much of an impression in the second car. In 1985 the team had a new sponsor in Olivetti and Pirelli tires and these enabled Piquet to score an unexpected win at the French GP. The team's second driver Francois Hesnault had a huge testing accident and decided that he did not want to be a Grand Prix driver and so Marc Surer took over.
There were big changes in 1986 with Piquet departing to join Williams and Patrese being joined by Elio de Angelis. Murray designed the BT55 - which is often known as the Skateboard Brabham. The BMW engine was tilted over and the car was incredibly low. Unfortunately the engine and the Weismann gearbox were unreliable. In the midseason de Angelis was killed in a testing accident at Paul Ricard. He was replaced by Derek Warwick but the cars did not do well. Ecclestone was losing interest as he became more and more involved in the sale of F1's TV rights and at the end of the year Murray departed to join McLaren. Brabham designers David North, John Baldwin and Sergio Rinland designed the BT56. This had to use the BMW laydown engines because all the old upright units had been sold to Megatron. Money was running short and Patrese and Andrea de Cesaris failed to achieve much in 1987, Patrese moving to Williams at the end of the year.
With BMW also withdrawing at the end of the year, Ecclestone announced that Brabham would be taking a sabbatical. The team built a Procar for Alfa Romeo but the whole operation then fell into the hands of Swiss businessman Joachim Luhti. The BT58 was designed in a hurry by Rinland and had a Judd V8 engine and Pirelli tires for the 1989 season. Martin Brundle and Stefano Modena scored eight points between them but Luhti was arrested in the mid-season and the team foundered. Luhti agreed to let Mike Earle and Joe Chamberlain run the operation but the sale was blocked by Peter Windsor who had injunctions to stop the team being sold as he had been involved with Luhti's purchase of the team but had been excluded from the deal.
Fed up with the chaos Martin Brundle quit the team. A new buyer appeared in the form of Middlebridge and Windsor agreed to sell the team to them. Herbie Blash, a longtime Brabham manager, returned and Modena was joined by Swiss Gregor Foitek although he was soon replaced by David Brabham, son of the team's founder, the now Sir Jack Brabham.
The team struggled in 1990 but Blash struck a deal for Yamaha engines in 1991 and hired Brundle and Mark Blundell to drive. The pair collected three points in Rinland's BT60Y, but money was increasingly short. At the end of the season Yamaha decided to switch to Jordan and Brabham was left with Judd engines, old cars and no money.
The team borrowed heavily from a company called Landhurst Leasing and in 1992 started the year with Eric van de Poele and lady racer Giovanna Amati, who was later replaced by Damon Hill. Between them, they managed to qualify in only three races and in midseason the team quit F1 after missing the Belgian and Italian GPs.