13 March 2018

Brabham - past, present and future

I’ve been around F1 long enough to have reported on the Brabham F1 team, which disappeared in the middle of 1992, after a series of very wobbly attempts to keep it going by Walter Brun, a strange fellow called Joachim Luhti (who wore a knotted hankie on his head on sunny days and liked to travel with ladies who gave the impression that they charged by the minute) and then a jolly sort of chap in Dennis Nursey, a car industry type who ran it for a Japanese company called Middlebridge. Behind him was a rich Japanese man called Koji Nakauchi, but funding for the whole thing came from a marvellously menacing financier called Ted Ball, who had scars on his knuckles that looked remarkably like sets of teeth. A couple of the above (Luhti and Ball) ended up in prison, adding to the colourful nature of the demise of the team...

I can also claim to have reported on Brabham in the Ecclestone era which ended at the finish of the 1988 season when Mr E, keen to make money from TV rights and such things, flogged the whole business to Alfa Romeo on the basis that the team would build a car for a new silhouette touring car series that never happened. I saw the Brabham-built Alfa Romeo 164 (otherwise known as the BT57) prototype running at Silverstone. It would have been a good series had it happened.

Brabham was one of those names which one never thought would disappear from the sport - like Tyrrell and Lotus - but they all did disappear and attempts to revive them have not been successful. Sometimes these things are better off left in the world of history. But David Brabham doesn’t see it that way - and good for him. He wants his family name back in the motor business and has been quietly working to make that happen, getting everything properly trademarked and going to work on a secret car project. The goal is to follow the path McLaren took and sell supercars which might (perhaps) one day be publicised by an F1 team.

David was a very decent racer in his day and would have done better in F1 if he’d had better cars. He went on to a very successful career in sports cars, including winning Le Mans, so he’s no lightweight. He recently launched Brabham Automotive, with a road car in mind and has now revealed that the car will be called the BT62 and will be launched in May. Whether this leads to motorsport activities remains to be seen but the ambition is clearly there - and there is logic in such a move. McLaren is a business model that has been remarkably successful and there seems to be no end to the demand for hyper cars, if one looks at some of the machinery on display in Geneva this week.

We’ll see how it all pans out... Getting into F1 these days is actually not that complicated if one can find a tame billionaire to pay for it. The problem is that self-made billionaires are rich because they don’t waste their cash and so it’s only second and third generation types who are willing to fritter away hundreds of millions on F1 adventures.

At the moment there are at least three F1 teams for sale - if the deal is right.


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