1972 BRM P180

One of the great challenges a race car designer faces is fitting all of the necessary components of a race car into one tightly-wrapped aerodynamically-efficient design. And, as is true, what the oncoming air meets needs to allow it to flow as unimpeded as possible. Therefore, this places an emphasis on a car's design a great deal. And, it would be the major focus of BRM's P180 and it would lead to some interesting design features that would soon become standard in Formula One.

Lotus would really get the ball rolling with its 56 and then its 72 model chassis. Up until then, the oncoming air would be greeted with rather large radiator inlet openings or other rather blunt designs, at least aerodynamically speaking. This was considered necessary as the narrow chassis designs that had dominated the sport since its inception in 1950 would cause designers to have to place the engine radiator in the nose of the car. Of course, this wasn't all that surprising given that the cars featured front-mounted engines throughout most all of the 1950s. But by the early 1970s, aerodynamics was really beginning to change the way cars were designed. The belief at the time was that the nose was the most important part of the car. It seemed a given the airflow would become turbulent around the rear of the car. And so, designers focused on creating designs that would meet the oncoming air rather gracefully.

The 56 and 72 for Lotus would both feature very wide and flat noses. The smoothly increasing upper lines of the bodywork would seem like the edge of knife laying down cutting through the air. The radiators would then be placed along the sides of the car in small sidepods and on either side of the gearbox at the absolute rear of the car, again, the belief being the airflow at the rear of the car wasn't as important as at the front.

Lotus' 72 would perform wonderfully well when it would make its appearance in Formula One. This would cause designers to tend to lean heavily on the side of design of the Lotus.rethink their designs.

An improvement on the P153, the P160 would utilize a nose design similar to Lotus' 56 and 72. It too would be wide and rather flat, but it would still feature an inlet for the radiator. Therefore, the nose wasn't quite as knife-like as that of the Lotus 72. That would all change when Tony Southgate rolled out his P180 the following year.

The P160 had been a successful car, but not as such as the 72 for Lotus. Therefore, since the two cars did have some things in common it wasn't that hard to believe that making such changes to the upcoming car design for the 1972 season would see BRM rise to the top once again.

Therefore, Southgate would set to work creating a design believed to take that which worked on the Lotus and would attempt to make it work with elements of the P160 design. The result would be the P180 and the marriage of the 72 and the P160 would be more than obvious.

The car would be striking to look at. Boasting of a wide, low-profile nose, without the radiator, the car looked more than streamlined. Featuring two small wings on either side, the nose of the car looked as though it belonged to a jet fighter. Differing nose designs would be used on the P180, but the same basic premise would be retained. The flat low-profile nose would either come with the small jet fighter-like wings, or, there would be rounded single piece of fiberglass nose that would feature some well-sculpted fender-like pieces meant to help direct the airflow between the nose and the wheels, and a little bit up and over the top.

The top lines of the wedge-shaped nose would then blend into the upper lines of the bodywork traveling after toward the cockpit, but it would also help to direct airflow around such points as where the front coil springs attached to the chassis.

But one unique aspect of Southgate's P180 would be the more than noticeable marriage made of different geometric shapes. Instead of all boxes and wedges from nose to tail, Southgate's design would feature elements of many different geometric shapes.

This fact would never be more evident than where the the low-profile, wedge-shaped lines of the nose came together to meet the generous contouring bodywork covering the tub of the chassis. Almost flying-saucer in shape behind the front wheels, the chassis would widen as it traveled aft and would greatly bend back inwards toward the middle of the car covering the fuel tanks located to either side of the cockpit.

The bodywork would then steeply rise around the cockpit opening enveloping the driver within. The P180 would then feature one of the most interesting cockpit designs ever seen in Formula One.

In an attempt to reduce as much obvious drag as possible, almost every aspect of the P180 would come under scrutiny. This would include the rear view mirrors. Instead of merely mounting mirrors to the outside of the car, Southgate would design an element of the cockpit that would also envelope the mirrors. This blended bodywork meant the mirrors would not be out in the free air causing additional drag. Unfortunately, this design would have issues, such as stability and strength. Therefore, to make sure the mirrors and the smooth bodywork remained in position it would be strengthened by a piece of fiberglass that traveled over the top of the cockpit connecting to the shroud on either side. However, this would interfere with the driver performing his duties as the top of the steering wheel would be located right underneath this piece of fiberglass. Therefore, it would be decided to make a cutout, or channel, in the fiberglass piece. As a result, there would be the main opening through which the driver would gain access to the cockpit. But then, besides the main opening, there would be a smaller opening that would allow the driver's hands to turn the wheel without impedance. This would seem like an overly drastic design move, especially when one considered the back end of the car.

The backend of the P180 would be nothing short of an absolute mess. Small cooling inlets would be placed to either side of the engine down along the contoured bodywork. However, the engine radiators would be moved well aft. They would be positioned between the rear wheels and the gearbox of the car. Then, pieces of bodywork that would help channel air to the radiators would be fitted and contoured to the flow of air through that part of the car. This would almost entirely impede the airflow at the back of the car.

Were it not for the space above the radiator boxes and the lower part of the rear wing there would be no where at all for the air to flow out the back of the car, not at least without running into some strong disturbances. When combined with the large airbox resting above the head of the highly-positioned driver and all of the support pillars and stabilizers for the rear wing, the all-important airflow out of the back of the car would be slim to none.

Boasting of the same 3.0-liter, 60 degree V12 that had been placed in the back of the 1968 P126, only tweaked to develop 440 bhp, the P180 just would not match the pace, nor the handling, of the Lotus 72. In fact, it would show much more poorly than the year old P160.

Despite having a ZF limited-slip differential, a 5-speed BRM gearbox and Lockheed disc brakes at all four corners, the P180 just could not compete. The car boasted a zero to 60 time of 4 seconds, but it was not enough to overcome the incredible instability caused at the rear of the car, which was only heightened by the weight distribution at the rear caused by the positioning of the radiators. As a result, instead of heading to the top once again, BRM was left having to nearly start over.

Instead of thinking Southgate only needed to throw together a couple of design features and BRM would be back contending for victories, Southgate would find himself doing a lot of reverting, and that is never good when the competition is likely moving forward.

Over the course of the '72 season the car would undergo changes. One such change would be to move the radiators out from the back of the car. Instead of blocking airflow out the back of the car and disrupting the handling at the back of the car, the radiators would be attached to the side of the car, much like Lotus' 72. This would help to free up the airflow out the back of the car, which would help to increase the balance and stability.

In actual competition, the P180 just could not compete. Where an evolution of the P160 would earn a victory at Monaco in the hands of Jean-Pierre Beltoise, the P180 just could not match the abilities of the P160. The car would make its debut at the Spanish Grand Prix in the hands of Peter Genthin. And before the end of the season, the car would be practically given up on and evolutions of the P160 would keep coming.

It was too late for the 1200 pound car. And when Southgate and the team were forced to revert back to an older P160, it really did spell the end for BRM. Just two cars would end up being produced before the whole project would be abandoned. Instead of having a design the team could tweak moving forward, they would be left evolving an older chassis. It was as if they had lost their way. It would really be over just a couple of years later when Sir Alfred Owen passed away.

Still, the P180 did have some things to offer to Formula One and motor racing. Besides the fact it would go on to score a victory in the non-championship World Championship Victory Race held at Brands Hatch, the P180 would influence future designs.

The P180 would not be the only car to be designed with inward-mounted rear view mirrors. And it would also highlight the necessity for designers to have airflow in mind from the nose all the way to the tail of the car.

'BRM P180 (1972-1972)', (http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/brm-p180/1560058365.htm). Histomobile.com. http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/brm-p180/1560058365.htm. Retrieved 13 June 2012.

'1972 BRM P180 News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/z7243/BRM-P180.aspx). Conceptcarz.com. http://www.conceptcarz.com/z7243/BRM-P180.aspx. Retrieved 13 June 2012.

'BRM P180', (http://www.motorsportsalmanac.com/mastuff/articles/RN_030305.pdf). Motorsportsalmanac.com. http://www.motorsportsalmanac.com/mastuff/articles/RN_030305.pdf. Retrieved 13 June 2012.

'BRM P180', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/695/BRM-P180-.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/695/BRM-P180-.html. Retrieved 13 June 2012.

'BRM P160', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/2013/BRM-P160.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/2013/BRM-P160.html. Retrieved 13 June 2012.

By Jeremy McMullen
British Racing Motors, commonly known as BRM, was a British Formula 1 racing team that was formed in 1945 and competed in competition from 1950 through 1977. In total, they competed in 197 Grand Prix races, of which they won 17.

The company was founded by Raymond Mays. Mays was a notable driver who won the British Hill Climb Championship in 1947 and 1948. Prior to World War II, Mays had built several road racing cars and hillclimb vehicles under the ERA brand.

After World War II, Mays used his pre-War experience in racing, and his many contacts and designs documents gathered while in the sport to form an all-British Grand Prix car of which, he would drive. The team set up shop in Spalding Road, Bourne, Lincolnshire, directly behind Mays' family home. Some individuals involved with ERA prior to War, returned in the post-War era to work for BRM. Those included in this category were Harry Mundy and Eric Richter.

The rules for in the post-War era allowed for engine sizes of 1.5-liters in supercharged form, or 4.5-liter in naturally aspirated condition. The BRM's cars were generally unconventional compared to other teams. Their first entries in the sport were powered by V16 engines enhanced with the help of supercharged. Instead of using the traditional Roots-Type supercharger, Rolls-Royce was tasked with creating the centrifugal supercharger. The engine proved to be very powerful, as expected. Its Achilles heal was its complexity and that its high horsepower output was proved over a very limited range of engine speed. As the years progressed, the teams racers became more traditional, though still fitted with many unique features.

By the time the V16 BRM engine's shortcomings were resolved, the engine was no longer eligible for Grand Prix competition. Instead, it was used in Formula Libre events scoring several victories over its racing career, though all victories were in minor events.

After the V16 project, five years later, BRM began work on a new F1 car. They continued to be true to their founding principles with every major component being designed in-house. Instead of creating a dramatic, bold, and unconventionally vehicle, they chose to go the traditional route. The result was the BRM P25 which was dramatically different from its V16 sibling. It was powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine in naturally aspirated guise and designed by Stuart Tresilian. The development of the car took longer than anticipated and upon its racing debut, proved to be unsuccessful. A victory would not be scored by the Type 25 for a long time; the first victory came at the Dutch Grand Prix in 1959. The short-comings of the BRM P25 were many; but mostly due to the large engine valves and rear brakes.

In 1956 Mike Hawthorn and Tony Brooks were hired as team drivers. The team failed to score any major victory. At the conclusion of the season, Brooks left. For the following season, a few improvements were made, but the failed to kindle the desired results.

In 1958, the next iteration of the BRM was introduced, and brought with it an updated suspension. Colin Chapman of Lotus fame had suggested replacing the single leaf spring with a coil spring setup. The change did improve the vehicles handling, but by this point the cars reputation was horribly dismal. Drivers struggling to get into Formula 1 were unwilling to get in its cockpit. Another problem with the car surfaced when alcohol-based fuels were replaced with pumped gas. This caused the engine to overheat, which was corrected in 1959. After years of development and testing, the car was finally becoming a formidable contender. Just as the car was coming into its glory, other marque's, mainly Cooper, had become dominate. Cooper's mid-engined cars were revolutionary, and allowed better weight distribution throughout the vehicle. In response to this, BRM introduced a mid-engined version of the P25, which they dubbed the P48. In almost every respect, the P25 and P48 were identical, except for the layout.

The P48 made its racing debut near the close of 1959. Just as prior cars in BRM history, this car failed to live up to expectations. In 1960, the team scored just four finishes and BRM finished in fourth place in the Constructors' Championship. In 1961, in response to rule changes, the cars engine was updated. Again, in BRM fashion, the engine was not ready in time; instead the car was powered by a Coventry-Climax four-cylinder unit.

By the early 1960s, Tony Rudd was in charge of the design teams. Under his care, the cars were fitted with V8 engines which was both traditional and the correct choice. In the hands of Graham Hill, the P57 finally served the BRM team well, securing BRM five Grand Prix wins. Hill secured the Driver's World Championship and BRM was crowed the Constructor Champion.

In 1963, the P57 was modified and improved to keep it competitive. The cars ran well for the next few years, until regulations in 1966 engine the cars career. With the new engine regulations announcement, BRM decided to return to the sixteen-cylinder engine. The engine was complex, just as their prior attempt with an engine of this size had been. The designers tried to keep the engine compact and lightweight; part of their solution in achieving this goal was by laying two eight-cylinder layouts on top of each other, creating a H-16 layout. Just as the sixteen-cylinder engine of prior years had been, this H16 version was complex, heavy and unreliable. Only one victory was scored with the engine, and it was in a Lotus.

For 1967, the team began work on a twelve-cylinder unit that would be powerful, and rectify the shortcomings of the sixteen-cylinder unit. The engine made its racing debut in a McLaren late in 1967. The results were positive, resulting in BRM to abandon its sixteen-cylinder technology in favor of positive prospects with their twelve. The engine was much less complex and more reliable, though lacking in power in comparison. The first BRM car to be powered by the Len Terry designed twelve-cylinder unit was the P126. In total, there were three chassis constructed by Terry, all were given the V12 engine and a Hewland five-speed gearbox.

During the 1968 season, the P126's served the team well, scoring some impressive second place finishes. Mid-way through the season, the team introduced the P133. There were two examples constructed, both were very similar to the P126. One of the chassis was in existence for only a short time before being destroyed; the second was raced with mild success.

At the end of the 1968 season, BRM found themselves fifth in the Constructor's Championship. This was a major improvement from the past two seasons.

For the 1969 season, the P128 and P133 were further developed, resulting in he P138 and later the P139. The engines improvements were ongoing. By the early 1970's, it had been fitted with four-valves per cylinder heads resulting in an increase in power. BRM was one of the few teams at this time using twelve-cylinder units; other teams were having success with engines such as the Cosworth DFV units.

Tony Southgate became chief designer for BRM at the end of the 1969 season. The P153 was introduced for 1970 and was able to achieve a victory at the Spa Grand Prix. This victory ended the teams four-year dry spell.

In 1971, the P160 was introduced. It used a fully-stressed version of the twelve-cylinder engine. The cars were fast, and carried Peter Gethin to a victory at the Monza Grand Prix after averaging over 242 mph. Jo Siffert captured a Grand Prix victory in the P160 during the 1971 season. At the conclusion of the year, BRM was in second place in the Constructors' Championship, right behind Tyrrell.

The P160, in various versions, were used for another three seasons with a total of seven examples being constructed.

In 1972, the P180 was introduced. It was a development of the P160 with only a few minor changes. Radiators were placed on either side of the gearbox, instead of the vehicles nose. This change proved to detrimental, as the vehicles handling was compromised. At the end of the season, the project was abandoned after only two cars had been created.

For 1974, the Mike Pilbeam designed P201 made its racing debut. Power was from the V12 engine, now producing around 450 horsepower. The engines were mated to a BRM five-speed manual gearbox. Drivers Jean Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo had very little success with the cars. The highlight of the P201's career was a second place finish at Kyalami in the hands of Beltoise.

The 1974 season was another low point in the BRM racing career. That low-point would decline further when long-time financial backer, Alfred Owen, passed away. This signaled the demise of the company.

The BRM P 207 was the last F1 car manufactured by British Racing Motors. Two cars were produced for the 1976 F1 season by Stanley - BRM with sponsorship by Rotary Swiss watches. This is the 02 car. The 01 car is currently being completed in the UK. BRM, along with Ferrari, were the only two teams to manufacture all parts of the car.

The car was driven by Larry Perkins, Conny Andersson and Teddy Pilette.

Because of severe lack of financing, the cars were never developed to their full potential. The P207 marked the end of an era for BRM.

The team was run for a short time with support by Louis Stanley and some Bourne personnel until 1977. When the team folded, the assets were acquired by John Jordan, who backed the building of a pair of P230 cars.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2012

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Related Drivers

France Jean-Pierre Maurice Georges Beltoise
Canada William Brack
New Zealand James Howden Ganley
United Kingdom Peter Kenneth Gethin
Austria Dr. Helmut Marko
United Kingdom Keith Jack Oliver
Australia Vernon 'Vern' Schuppan
Spain Alex Soler-Roig
Sweden Reine Wisell

Related Teams

United Kingdom Marlboro BRM

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