We’ve already given you the bare bones on the new Brabham BT62 hypercar that was launched in London yesterday, it’s fair to say the original press release left a significant number of unanswered questions. Which is why we went along to the unveiling at Australia House to try and find out more.
While dodging champagne and canapes, and looking notably scuzzier than the motorsport aristocracy that had been assembled for the curtain-twitching, we managed to corner Paul Birch. He is Brabham Automotive’s engineering director and the technical brains behind the project, having previously worked for both Lotus and Caterham as a powertrain engineer.
When asked why a trackday special needs headlights and what look like road-spec mirrors, he was gratifyingly quick to get to the point. “It’s been engineered for road homologation, we will ultimately need to do that to take it racing,” he said.
The plan is to get the car into the World Endurance Championship: “Le Mans is in our sights.”
That ultimate mission explains plenty more about the way the car has been designed. It uses a steel bodyshell rather than a pure carbon one, not due to cost according to Birch – body panels are still entirely made from expensive composite – but because the fully carbon Ford GT only races in the WEC under a dispensation from the organisers.
At under 1000kg dry, the BT62 is still plenty light, too. The 5.4-litre atmo V8 will also lose the power disadvantage it might seem to have over forced induction rivals after it emerges from the Byzantine balance-of-performance process that is used to try and equalize WEC grids; while doing without the additional mass and complexity that comes from intercoolers.
Whose engine is it anyway?
Birch proved to be less forthcoming when asked about the exact origin of the powerplant itself, which is officially claimed to be a Brabham unit.
He admitted that it is a heavily reworked version of somebody else’s donk, but wouldn’t say which manufacturer had supplied it. The fact the company has admitted it is a 32-valve quad cam unit narrows the list of potential suppliers down a fair bit, so feel free to place your bets in the comments; on the balance of probabilities we’d be surprised if it wasn’t from Ford.
And, before we move away from the shock and awe, a quick point about the claim the trackday version of the car will be able to produce up to 1200kg of peak downforce: that number is conservative, according to Birch. “It can actually go a lot higher,” he said, “we picked that as a representative figure.”
The other big ask was, other than the natty green-and-gold paint scheme of the car and the Brabham name, is just how Australian the project really is.
Managing Director David Brabham, youngest son of Sir Jack and former Le Mans winner himself, describes it as “Anglo-Australian” and insists that’s been about far more than just branding and the eventual construction Down Under.
“Nobody is looking for secret prototypes in Australia.”
“The main reason that you haven’t seen or heard about this car ahead of [the unveiling] is because it’s been kept well away from the spy photographers,” he said. “Nobody is looking for secret prototypes in Australia.”
Brabham also reckons the 15,000 square metre plant near Adelaide that will build the BT-62 is set to become Australia’s biggest car manufacturing site, following the end of local mass production.
We’re told the money is Australian too, with development funds having come from a private equity group called Fusion Capital.
There is no connection to the last attempt to revive the Brabham name, a crowd-funded race programme called Project Brabham which seems to be dormant. Yet even if all 70 examples of the BT62 are sold – a sizeable ask considering the difficulty some better-known brands have had flogging smaller runs of megabucks track specials – the total revenue of around $130m doesn’t seem like nearly enough to establish a new car company.
The BT62 feels like it’s just part of a bigger story, one that we hope the company starts to share with us soon.