We’re a long way from Adelaide, where the Brabham BT62 is built, but this still feels like a properly Australian adventure.
The Blyton Park circuit in England is a driving experience centre built on an old RAF base in Lincolnshire, and it’s where CarAdvice has come for a first turn in the hypercar that bears the name of the most famous racing driver Australia has ever produced.
Sir Jack Brabham’s youngest son, David, has been the driving force behind what is now Brabham Automotive, and is here to introduce us to the company’s first child.
He’s definitely tenacious, having won Le Mans on his 16th attempt at the ripe old age of 43, at the same time as he was fighting a seven-year legal battle to take back commercial rights to the family name in Europe.
He prevailed, and the BT62 is the first fruit of what he reckons will eventually be a range of cars and a return to top-line endurance racing with the stated aim of being in Le Mans in 2021.
“We’re a brand, not a car.”
The BT62 features a mid-mounted V8 522kW engine that is propelling a dry weight of just 972kg.
Together the whale-razor rear wing and huge underfloor diffuser can produce up to 1200kg of downforce. Find somebody brave enough to pilot it and the BT62 could drive upside down.
While most extreme track toys are road cars that have been turned up to 11 – or even beyond – the Brabham comes from the other direction. This is a race car, pure and simple: spaceframe structure, slick tyres, motorsport-grade sequential transmission and carbon-carbon Brembo brakes that basically don’t work until brought up to their working temperature.
The standard car isn’t road legal for fairly obvious reasons, but Brabham has confirmed it will be offering a ‘streetable’ version for anyone mad enough to try it – one that will be homologated under both Britain’s Single Vehicle Type Approval and Australian Design Rules.
After a sweat-inducing, organ-sloshing experience from the passenger seat, with David Brabham doing the chauffeuring himself, it’s our turn.
The intimidation factor is certainly high.
Getting into the driver’s seat requires even more dexterity than the passenger side, with the need to shuffle past the steering wheel as well as fitting through the minimal gap between the bars that make up the fully structural steel cage that the carbon bodywork is effectively hung from.
The cabin is about as basic as it’s possible to be; a strip of Alcantara on top of the dash pretty much constituting the trim.
The steering wheel is covered in dials for various maps and modes, there’s a single control panel in the centre of the car and all information is relayed from a digital display screen.
The windows don’t open, so ventilation is provided by a length of flexi-pipe in the centre of the cabin; driver and passenger will have to fight over who gets their crotch cooled.
There’s an actual clutch pedal just to get underway. I don’t stall, the day’s first victory, and then I’m rumbling out onto the track in command of what feels like the most extreme car I’ve ever piloted.
Performance feels unsurprisingly brutal given the power on tap, and the engine sounds furious even through both the rear bulkhead and a crash helmet.
At risk of sounding spoiled, though, straight-line urge is the thing that doesn’t feel completely outside the frame of reference.
The BT62 is almost certainly faster than a McLaren Senna or a Porsche 911 GT2 RS, but not by enough to be subjectively obvious. The engine is short on manners, grumpy and bad-tempered below 4000rpm, increasingly happy as it gets towards the 7400rpm where it makes peak power.
The sequential transmission shifts with a savage efficiency, the brakes are utterly tireless.
The big revelation is how non-scary the BT62 feels, despite a power-to-weight ratio that would humble many genuine competition cars.
Steering is well-weighted and not excessively fast, the ride is impressively pliant for something so extreme, and the slick tyres are producing more grip than I know what to do with.
The front-end feels amazing; even in tighter corners of Blyton’s twisty and bumpy 2.6km Outer Circuit, the BT is just turning without any evidence of slip angles.
The rear is more of a surprise; I start out treating the throttle like a trigger and tensed for the sensation of a slide, but the chassis is willing to take serious power even while turning, and the traction control intervenes cleanly and almost invisibly to keep it pointed as intended.
As speed rises, it becomes obvious the big problem is the driver, not the car. I’ve not got the bandwidth to keep up with what the BT62 is doing.
So, I’ll get one bit of the track right and then inevitably find I’m doing something wrong at the next bit, which has arrived before I’m ready for it.
Throughout my 10-lap stint I never get close to the limit of what the carbon-carbon brakes can do, and frequently find that I’m entering a corner too slowly, or in too low a gear.
While Blyton’s tight layout doesn’t allow sufficient speeds for the BT62 to harvest its peak downforce, the Hand of God makes a noticeable difference through medium-speed corners, causing the car to grip harder and turn more crisply.
On the fastest part of the track – a right-left-right kink – the Brabham can carry speed that generates genuinely painful G-loadings for my unaccustomed neck muscles.
Spending seven figures on a car from a brand that didn’t exist a year ago might seem utterly mad.
But, for anyone in the lucky position to afford this Australian-built exotic, the BT62 is genuinely different, several rungs up the ladder from a McLaren Senna or even a Ferrari FXX K.
This is car that could show a clean pair of heels to a front-running GT3 car.
The idea of the road-legal version is utterly ludicrous; the idea of trying to drive this engine and gearbox on road seems certifiable. The BT62 is ridiculous, but don’t you want one?
NUTS & BOLTS
- Engine: 5.4-litre V8
- Transmission: Six-speed sequential, RWD
- Power: 522kW @ 7400rpm
- Torque: 667Nm @ 6200rpm
- 0-100km/h: 2.8 seconds (estimated)
- Top speed: 330km/h (dependent on gearing)
- Weight: 972kg (dry)
- Price: £1,000,000 (UK, before tax)