Bringing Back Brabham: Meet The BT62, A 700HP Naturally-Aspirated Track Toy
Watermarked photography by Will Broadhead
Brabham. It’s a name that will be forever entrenched in the history and folklore of Grand Prix and sports car competition, with a proud tradition of race and championship wins earned by the English marque. But more than that, in 1966 the already two-time World Champion Sir Jack Brabham won the Grand Prix world championship in a car bearing his name, a car that was built and designed by himself and Ron Tauranac, the first and still the only person to accomplish such a feat. The Brabham name is also carried proudly by Sir Jack’s sons, Geoff and David, both Le Mans and endurance race winners in their own right and fine custodians of the surname that was the hallmark of their father’s success as a constructor.
This year marks 70 since Sir Jack first began racing midget cars in 1948, and now something new is afoot for the company he created. “Project Brabham: A Legend Redefined,” is how it has been branded since the idea of revitalizing the marque was conceived in 2014. The idea came from David Brabham in the months after the death of his father. Many of us would seek the comfort of a project or a distraction in such a traumatic time, but yesterday evening, in the historic and salubrious surroundings of Australia House in London, myself and other members of the motoring press and special guests were gathered to witness the unveiling of a new car carrying the Brabham Viper badge.
The carefully leaked information and video teasers of the BT62 we were treated to for the past few months pointed towards a track-focused toy for those with a bit of cash on the hip. Spending £1million (plus local taxes) on a car you can’t drive down the road is a privilege that few will have, but exclusivity and provenance don’t come cheap, and after all, they’re only building 70 of them. An exclusive price tag for an exclusive machine, then.
It’s not only the rarity that you pay for of course, as the car’s performance figures are insanely impressive, especially given the fact it’s powered by a naturally-aspirated, mid-mounted 5.4-liter V8 that’s good for 700 free-revving horsepower. With a dry weight of just 972kg (2,143lbs), the math returns a power-to-weight ratio of 720bhp/ton, which is more than the McLaren Senna’s, for reference. This is coupled with 1200kg (2,646lbs) of downforce and 492ft-lbs of torque. In other words—on paper at least—that ought to give the BT62 pretty serious bragging rights at most circuits.
In amongst a host of ex-Formula 1 drivers and people associated with Brabham’s past and future, including several historic Brabham machines, the BT62 is revealed to much adulation and more than one audible gasp. It’s a handsome beast if a bit complex-looking (not a bad thing necessarily, when it comes to modern hypercars), and it looks fabulous in its British Racing Green with the simple gold stripe livery, a nod to Sir Jack’s BT19 car. As one would expect for a dedicated track animal, it’s dripping with carbon fiber and all the hi-perf parts you’d expect, including carbon Brembo brakes (which Brabham developed in their GP cars in the 1970s), quick-fill connectors for refueling, a host of electronic aids, a motorsport-inspired air jack system, and of course, some super-wide slicks wrapped around the lightweight wheels. But enough of the specs and bits, what is the point of it all? And how does another fossil fuel hypercar—with a price tag 99% of us can’t afford—justify its place at the larger automotive table?
Well for one, I believe this is a car that Sir Jack would be proud to have built himself. During a heartfelt speech by David before the reveal, it’s clear that family tradition and ties have been extremely important in the development of this car from concept to production. Its purpose is chiefly to put the Brabham name back into circulation, and it’s clear that David and the rest of the Brabham team believe that a track car was the right way to go about it. We agree.
The proud new owners of these cars will also join a driver development program to train and enhance their abilities in order to let them push these machines toward their limits. Still an exclusive club for sure, and unlikely that many of us will ever get to see one of these beautiful cars used in anger. But, don’t go thinking this is a one trick pony; the vision of Brabham’s future involves a return to motorsport, and this is merely the first step toward their goal of competing at Le Mans. David suggests that there are another two cars in the pipeline, and when asked whether the first of those cars is to be the much fabled LMP racer to take on the famed 24-hour race, followed by a street-legal car, I’m met with a wry smile suggesting that’s a fair assumption.
So, another hypercar is in our midst (it seems we get a new one every few weeks these days) but perhaps this one has a purpose greater than the sale of its units? David Brabham certainly seems to think so, and who are we to doubt him. In a room full of motorsports luminaries, the prospect of Brabham competing again gave me my fair share of goosebumps.