As part of the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, eight former F1 drivers will be demonstrating famous cars from the history of Formula One. And one of them will be Nelson Piquet in the 1983 Brabham BMW BT52. The Brazilian driver won that season to become the first driver to become World Champion in a turbo-engined car.
The BMW engine was a 1.5 litre four cylinder 16 valve turbocharged example with Digital Motor Electronics for the first time in Formula One. The power output was estimated to be up to around 1,400hp, but BMW Motorsport Technical Director Paul Rosche said “We don’t know for sure as the dyno didn’t go beyond 1,280 hp.”
The turbo engine was introduced at the start of 1982, and in 1983 Piquet took one pole, four fastest race laps, eight podium appearances and out of those, three wins, to claim the title.
The car is part of the BMW Group Classic collection, and the team responsible for the collection first brought the Brabham BMW BT52 out of retirement for the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed. Various mechanics involved were those who originally worked on the car 30 years earlier – including Paul Rosche.
The Brabham team was started by legendary Australian driver Jack Brabham and designer Ron Tauranac in 1961 – and Brabham remains the only driver to win the Drivers’ Championship in a car bearing his own name. After winning that title in 1966, Brabham retired and sold his share in the team to Ron Tauranac, and just one year later, Brabham was sold to Bernie Ecclestone.
Jack Brabham went on to be a successful businessman and remained involved in various motorsport endeavours, including engine building and historic events until his death in 2014. Meanwhile Project Brabham is a new motorsport team started by youngest son, David Brabham, and with plans to race in World Endurance and eventually Formula One.