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1968 BRM P133

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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 2007

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