BRAB­HAM BT62 AT GOOD­WOOD

We call shotgun as the Aussie-built su­per­car gets fired up the drive­way

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - BEN OLIVER

IN THE tech in­dus­try, ‘vapour­ware’ de­scribes prod­ucts that get hyped but never ac­tu­ally ap­pear. Sadly, most sports car start-ups de­serve the same de­scrip­tion. Too of­ten we get a press re­lease an­nounc­ing a new player or the re­birth of a fa­mous old name, a launch party and an im­age or a clay model, but ul­ti­mately no car.

But the only vapour em­a­nat­ing from Brab­ham Au­to­mo­tive is curl­ing gen­tly from the twin tailpipes of its new BT62 track car as it idles on the start line at the Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed, just three months af­ter it was un­veiled at Aus­tralia House in Lon­don. David Brab­ham is al­ready strapped in, and mo­tions me into the pas­sen­ger seat. “Come on in, mate,” the Le Mans win­ner says. “Wel­come to the of­fice. Sorry it’s so bloody hot.”

The re­cent wel­ter of low-vol­ume, high-power, ex­treme-price track-only spe­cials from the es­tab­lished su­per­car mak­ers might feel a lit­tle ir­rel­e­vant to most of us, but the Brab­ham may have caught your at­ten­tion for a) com­ing from the fam­ily of Black Jack, Aus­tralia’s great­est-ever rac­ing driver, and b) be­ing built in Ade­laide just as the rest of Aus­tralian car-mak­ing shuts down. Af­ter the Agera, the Senna and the Huayra, the Shraya would have made a good name for an Aussie-built su­per­car. But the BT62 con­tin­ues the Brab­ham Rac­ing nam­ing con­ven­tion that ran from 1961 to the still­born BT61 of 1992, and seems ap­pro­pri­ate given Brab­ham’s plan to re­turn to rac­ing with a Le Mans en­try us­ing a vari­ant of this car in a cou­ple of years. A road car could fol­low within five.

So the BT62 is a race car made slightly more ac­ces­si­ble, rather than a road car made more ex­treme like the Senna GTR. It has a steel space-frame chas­sis with car­bon pan­els, is pow­ered by a 5.4-litre atmo V8 mak­ing 522kw and 667Nm, and drives the rears through a six-speed Holinger se­quen­tial gear­box. The block is sourced from an OEM but so heav­ily mod­i­fied they’ve taken their name off it, and it’s billed as a Brab­ham en­gine. David won’t say where it’s from, but the ru­mours say Ford. It only has 932kgs to shift, but also the drag re­quired to gen­er­ate 1200kgs of down­force with a lot of pas­sive aero.

Look past the bru­tal wing and split­ter and there’s a pretty shape be­neath, with hints of Mclaren in the rear haunches and BMW i8 in the de­tached body­work forms

around the pinched-in waist.

This is one of two run­ning pro­to­types: 70 will be made, with the first 35 of­fered in the liv­er­ies of Brab­ham’s 35 F1 win­ners. This one bears the colours of Gor­don Mur­ray’s mad BT46B ‘fan car’, which won once at An­der­storp, Swe­den, 40 years ago be­fore be­ing banned. It was one of Brab­ham’s finest mo­ments, and the liv­ery is play­ing well with a knowl­edge­able Good­wood crowd. The weave of the car­bon body­work is clearly vis­i­ble through the paint, as it was on the bon­net of an F40 30 years ago. You wouldn’t find that on a Mclaren, but there’s a pleas­ing, race-car hon­esty and sim­plic­ity about it, and it won’t change for pro­duc­tion.

To get in you fling the feath­er­weight, car­bon and acrylic door wide open and lever your­self past the roll cage, though the aper­ture it­self is big enough to be prac­ti­cal. The cock­pit is stark, of course. The seats are nearly re­cum­bent. David has a rec­tan­gu­lar race ‘wheel’ ahead of him with the usual but­tons and manet­tini, and 3x5 block of switches an­gled to­wards him from the cen­tral con­sole. There’s a 12.0-inch in­stru­ment screen ahead of him with ex­pen­sive-look­ing graph­i­cal clar­ity, good enough for a ‘nor­mal’ su­per­car. Be­low that are a knob to ad­just the brake bias and a lever to move the pedal box, which is a small work of engi­neer­ing art on its own, set on a lit­tle car­bon­fi­bre plinth so your heels can rest at the right height with­out the weight of a com­plete false floor.

I’m not about to give you a de­fin­i­tive ver­dict based on a one-minute fang up the hill at Good­wood and a leisurely de­scent, mostly in neu­tral. But you still learn plenty. Beyond the sim­ple fact that Brab­ham kept the project so se­cret and have de­liv­ered a run­ning pro­to­type so soon, it’s im­pres­sive that the car will do eight runs up the hill to­day in 30-de­gree heat and stop-start con­di­tions less than per­fect for a race car with­out miss­ing a beat.

The BT62 may have road-car man­ners, but as the mar­shalls wave us off it’s ob­vi­ous it’s race-car fast

As David rolls us up to the start line it’s also much more re­fined than I was ex­pect­ing, with less noise and fizz from the en­gine pen­e­trat­ing the cabin, and less of a thwack to the back of the head as the gears go in.

The BT62 may have road-car man­ners, but as the mar­shals wave us off it’s in­stantly ob­vi­ous that it’s race-car fast. The clutch is only re­quired to get the car away, and David rolls us off the line be­fore get­ting deep – though prob­a­bly not all the way – into the throt­tle. Still, he and his car are plainly ohh­h­hhh-shit quick, the revs on that big dis­play still leap­ing up long af­ter any­one sen­si­ble would have braked for the loom­ing first right-han­der. Just as I’m tak­ing a pos­si­bly fi­nal look down at my legs he hits the six-pot car­bon­ce­ramic stop­pers and we’re danc­ing through the cor­ner be­fore get­ting hard on it again up the straight out­side Good­wood House. The noise never gets shrieky or painful: just a lovely, loud, old-school V8 rum­ble over­laid with the whine of the trans­mis­sion. With the Oh­lins dampers pro­vid­ing a sweet ride over Good­wood’s im­per­fect tar­mac, the com­plete ex­pe­ri­ence is ter­ri­fy­ing but sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able, like sit­ting in premium econ­omy in a freefalling air­craft.

But is it worth $1.8m, be­fore taxes? The good news is that there’s no lux­ury im­port tax to pay, as the BT62 is made in Aus­tralia, and not legally a car any­way.

You’re also not just pay­ing for the car but for a driver de­vel­op­ment pro­gram with four days each on four dif­fer­ent tracks and David giv­ing the in­struc­tion. Be­cause Brab­ham hasn’t (yet) built a road car of its own, few peo­ple have driven one, so you’re join­ing a very se­lect and of­ten fairly fa­mous club. And judg­ing from the way David is mobbed as he tries to walk around Good­wood, that name, once on a par with Mclaren and Lo­tus and Fer­rari, still counts for a lot.

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