Thursday, December 22, 2016

RETRO: When BMW first went Grands Prix racing

The late Elio de Angelis, who at just age 28 lost his life thirty years ago from a testing accident upon the full length Paul Ricard circuit behind the wheel of the Brabham BT55-BMW. (Image source: images)
Perhaps Y'all could somewhat call I-T a veritable C' Change? Since a strange changing of The Old Guard was taking place this fall...

As typical here in Nofendersville, a single story grain multiplies, and hence, as I was labouring to get round to working upon my epic Bimmers' invade ACM tome, whilst purusing Grizzled Journo' Joe Saward's Joe Blogs F1 site, he noted the passing of somebody's name that rang Alarm Bells upon my Anti-collision controls...

As the name in Questione was Paul Rosche, whom I recalled as the man behind Munich's Inline four cylinder F1 turbo engine's development as BMW Motorsport's boss.

BMW Motor Racing
I will not attempt to chronicle every aspect of BMW's prolific motor racing exploits, with reports of BMW Specials contesting Formula 2 as far back as the early 1950's, then rejoining the modern F2 championship in the late 1960's before winning their first F2 races in '70.

Next came the European F2 Championship title in 1973 with the "Works" March Engineering with Jean-Pierre Jarrier at the wheel. As BMW M Power entries  were en route to multiple championships as one of the series strongest Contendahs' until its demise in 1984.

Yet your humble No Fenders scribe Tomaso's predominantly interested in how many Grands Prix W's the Bavarian outfit's won over the years, which shies in comparison to such Juggernauts as Cosworth's ubiquitous DFV lumps' staggering tally of 174 victories, Ferrari, Renault, etc.

HELL! Even the mighty Mercedes have won a demoralizing 51-of-59 races (to date) during the (2014-16) Power Unit era...

Formula 1 Turbo era: 1982-88
Although BMW wasn't the first turbocharged motor in the sport, nor first to record victory. Yet instead, they were the first to win the Formula 1 championship in 1983 and were also rumoured to have the highest-ever (bhp) Horsepower output on the F1 Grid, with an astounding 1,500bhp rumoured with the boost dial turned U-P to 11; Hya! Err, maximum boost setting.

As this was Brabham's Glory Days, a short lived dynasty when the Milton Keynes outfit was owned by a one Mr. Bernard Charles Ecclestone, who chose to have somebody named Herbie Blash run the team, as Herbie would go onto become Charlie Whiting's Deputy Director, after hiring him to work at Brabham, with the pair inseparable for some two-plus decades...

As I particularly like the part 'bout Brabham running two separate powered cars at once, with Patrese getting the old car, nee BT49-Ford/Cosworth V-8, while team leader Piquet had the new BT50 BMW turbo at his disposal. With the team scoring a most unlikely 1-2 with these pair 'O chassis before BMW said QUIT Screwing around Bernie!

Longtime Brabham Designer Gordon Murray unleashed the first of his successful Turbocar's', the BT50 with BMW's Inline 1.5-litre four cylinder turbocharged lump' at the season opening 1982 South African Grand Prix before reverting back to the prior year's BT49 Cosworth DFV V-8 whilst sorting out reliability issues, with Riccardo Patrese winning the Monaco GP aboard the year old Brabham.

With Munich turning the screws literally, to resolve it's reliability issues, during its inaugural F1 campaign. Two races later, Nelson Piquet scored BMW's maiden Formula One victory at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. With Patrese soldiering home as Blocking Back P2' (second) aboard the year-old naturally aspirated Cossie' (Ford Cosworth) BT49 mount.

Sadly, this triumph was overshadowed by the horrific first lap shunt which ultimately cost 23yr old Italian F1 rookie Riccardo Paletti his life aboard the back-marker Osella.

Later in Austria Piquet would record Munich's first Pole position, along with the "Blown" (Turbocar) chassis capturing three fastest laps.

Nineteen eighty three was BMW's most successful season, having already noted Piquet securing his second F1 Drivers Crown with Brabham; being the first ever to win the championship with a turbo motor. As the Brazilian notched a total of three wins, with Wingman Patrese scoring another to give BMW a total of four W's along with two Pole positions and four Fastest laps with the championship winning BT52/BT52B.

The following year saw Piquet supported by the Fabi brothers, as the upstart Italian Teo had shocked CART and Americre' the previous year when winning the Pole for some 'lil 'Ol Oval-race at Indianapolis! With his younger brother Corrado deputizing for him when his IndyCar commitments clashed.

Arrows became BMW's first customer engine team in '84 and would run the 4-bangers' until the end of the sport's first turbo era ended at the close of the '88 season.

And although the BMW still apparently was the most boosted engine on the grid, with Piquet taking most Poles with nine. Nonetheless, the TAG-Porsche V-6 turbos of McLaren won most of the races, as Nelson could only stand atop the podium twice.

Having passed their zenith with the onslaught of McLaren's A-L-L conquering TAG-Porsche's, 1985 saw Brabham's demise begin in earnest with Piquet only capable of scoring one Pole and a lone victory that season, Brabham's final Grands Prix victory; with the BT54 failing to record any Fastest laps.

Piquet left for the greener pastures of Team Willy in '86, with the discouraged Elio de Angelis bolting from Lotus to get away from somebody named Senna! Yet Murray's pencil nosed BT55 "laydown" chassis would cost the Italian his life during testing, which ultimately sealed the fate of Brabham's ultimate demise in '92, long after Ecclestone had sold the team,

Sorry Elio, almost forgot that this past May was the 30th Anniversary of his death, although when I think of Brabham, inevitably that ill-fated radical laydown BT55 chassis and De Angelis passing comes to mind...

And how could I forget? Especially since I'm greeted daily by the Anne Peyton lithograph print of that most striking Benetton "World 'O Colours" B186 on Thy bathroom's wall; CRIKEYS!

a second supply deal was acquired by an upstart F1 Constructor named Benetton, who'd taken over Toleman. With Gerhard Berger giving the team it's maiden Formula 1 victory and the 'lil turbo motor it's last three decades ago in Mexico City.

Poles: 15; Fastest Laps: 13; Wins: 9

Formula 1 Demise...
While BMW effectively quit F1 at the end of the 1986 season, with Munich selling the engine rights to what would become known as Megatron under Arrows guise, while Brabham and Ligier also used these motors during the waning years of the turbo era, nee 1987-88, BMW had already departed F1 and wouldn't produce a naturally aspirated V-8 lump for the new 3.5-litre era commencing in '89.

More BMW Motorsports Ambiguity
As I tried putting this story to bed, I stumbled into the first New Zealand Herald Motoring story posted upon thou NFB Newsline for The Blind telephone service I puruse daily...

As the cynic in Mwah wondered if the report of some McLaren "Boffin" offering the Freelance photographer copious amounts 'O Dinero for his Memory-card, in order to keep a lid upon the incident was some weird, twisted way of deflecting Attenzione away from the sacking of Ron Dennis, eh?

As it seemed somewhat symbiotic that the story in Questione included two past Brabham employees and a BMW V-12 used to propel a rival company's Supercar to success at Circuit de la Sarthe.

As thee Ronster', aka Ron Dennis cut his teeth at Brabham during the Sir Blackjack Days, having followed Jochen Rindt from Cooper to Jack Brabham's fledgling F1 team in 1969 as a mechanic, and the rest is history as they say, before Dennis was given his "Woking" papers when being put on Gardening Leave just weeks ago.

Gordon Murray continued his winning ways at McLaren under the employ of Dennis, designing those A-L-L conquering McLaren Honda's in the late 1980's - before designing the McLaren F1 Supercar kitted out with a 6.1-litre normally aspirated BMW V-12, which an McLaren F1 GTR won Le  Mans overall in '95, before BMW was lured back into Formula 1 as Team Willy's' (Williams F1) engine partner in the early 2000's...