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  BRM P261
 

  Article Image gallery (42) Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced from:1964 - 1965
Numbers built:6
Designed by:Tony Rudd for BRM
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:April 10, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWorld Champions in 1962, Graham Hill and BRM struggled in the opening stages of the 1963 season. The V8 engined P57 used to great effect in the previous year was now truly eclipsed by the Lotus 25 with its advanced monocoque chassis. Compared to the spaceframe chassis used by BRM, the Lotus monocoque was lighter and more rigid. Having finally found race winning form, BRM did not give up that easily and before the season was over an answer to the Lotus was presented.

BRM's long time head of design Tony Rudd created his own interpretation of a monocoque chassis. Unlike the Lotus chassis that consisted solely of aluminium sheets, the new BRM chassis used a frame covered in duralumin sheets. The front of the chassis was formed by a bulkhead and at the rear a steel subframe was attached to support the engine, gearbox and suspension. The 1.5 litre engine was revised to produce around 200 bhp and it was bolted to a new six speed gearbox that had been developed in-house. Dubbed the P61 was a more elegant and lighter racing car compared to its predecessor.

The P61 was first tested in June of 1963 and first entered for a Grand Prix at the end of the month. Despite concerns about the handling of the new car, Hill managed to qualify the P61 on the front row of the French GP at Reims. The BRM stalled on the grid and after he received a push-start, Hill received a 60-second penalty. This did not affect his third place finish as he crossed the line 61 seconds ahead of Jack Brabham. Hill raced the semi-monocoque BRM only once more again qualifying second, but this time did not make it to finish due to a broken clutch. The season was somewhat saved by the two victories scored by Hill in the older, but very reliable P57.

One of the problems of the P61 was the lack of a rear bulkhead, which made the chassis flex badly under heavy loads. Only two months after the P61 first to the track, Rudd was already busy with an updated 'Mark II' or '2-61'. The separate rear subframe was discarded as the monocoque tub was lengthened to take up its task. The cockpit and engine bay were separated by a proper bulkhead to prevent the chassis from flexing. A four valve version of the engine with reversed intake and exhaust ports was also in the works, but it was never raced. A two valve engine with central exhaust ports and 208 bhp on the tap was introduced during the 1964 season.

The new P261 made a staggering debut at the 1964 season opening Monaco Grand Prix. A master of the tight street course, Hill won the race and recorded the fastest lap. Team-mate Richie Ginther completed the party by finishing second. Hill took another victory and scored a large number of podium finishes. At the end of the very consistent season he had amassed the most points, but Ferrari's John Surtees was crowned World Champion as only the six best results counted. The difference between the two was just one point. On the same grounds BRM lost out on the constructor's title to Ferrari by three points.

Disappointed by Ginther's poor pace in most of the 1964 races, he was replaced for 1965 by a young Jackie Stewart. The P261 was modified only in detail and still remained competitive. Only the brilliance of Jimmy Clark and his Lotus 33 stood between BRM and another title. Hill did manage to score another two victories, while Stewart scored his maiden Grand Prix victory. Consistency was again the key word as out of twenty starts, the BRM P261 managed to reach the finish sixteen times, scoring points at every occasion. In the final races of the season the diminutive V8 engine produced a staggering 220 bhp at 11,750 rpm.

For 1966 the regulations were changed considerably with the displacement limit raised to 3 litre. Nevertheless the P261's racing career was far from over; slightly larger engined examples were raced with considerable success in the Tasman Series and were also used in the first races of the 1966 season. In two litre time the twin-cam V8 was good for 285 bhp. Stewart took the P261s third consecutive Monaco Grand Prix win. Eventually the P261 was relieved from its Grand Prix duty by the P83, which was powered by the overly complex H16 engine. With six Grand Prix wins, the P261 remains as one of the most successful BRMs ever constructed.

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  Article Image gallery (42) Specifications