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  BRM P201

  Article Image gallery (9) Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced from:1974 - 1975
Numbers built:6
Designed by:Mike Pilbeam
Predecessor:BRM P180
Successor:BRM P207
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:May 29, 2006
Download: All images
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Click here to download printer friendly versionFrom BRM's motor racing debut in 1949, they produced unconventional cars compared to their contemporaries. In the team's first years, BRM campaigned a screaming supercharged V16, which looked good on the drawing boards, but was too complex to be competitive. In the following years, the team's Formula 1 racers were relatively normal, but were still fitted many unique features. A great example was the 1962 Championship winning P57, which had a unique profile as a result of eight separate exhaust pipes pointing upwards.

When the Formula 1 rules and regulations were drastically changed in 1966, BRM was left without an engine to compete with. The displacement limit was increased from 1.5 litres to 3 litres for Naturally Aspirated engines and a new category of 1.5 litre forced induction engines was created. BRM's largest engine was a 2.5 litre V12 engine used in the Australian Tasman series. Going back to their roots, BRM set out to design one of the most complex Formula 1 engines ever constructed; a 'H16' unit, made up of two flat eight engines mounted on top of eachother.

The return to 16 cylinders was not a happy one and a new V12 engine was hurried in to replace the heavy and unreliable H16. Although it was designed as a sportscar engine, the 3-litre V12 engine was modified to suit the F1 team's needs. By the early 1970s the V12 was fitted with four valve per cylinder heads and produced competitive power figures. Although the BRM V12 was not the only 12 cylinder engine on the grid, BRM was the only British team not using the dominant Cosworth DFV engine.

At the end of the 1969 season, Tony Southgate had taken over as chief designer. His newly designed P153 took the victory in the 1970 Spa Grand Prix, the team's first Championship victory in over four years. For 1971 Southgate designed the P160, which used a fully stressed 440 bhp version of the 48-valve V12 engine. Livered in the Yardley colours, the P160 looked the part and its performance was more than a match for its looks. It was to be the team's last peak in performance.

In one of the most exciting races ever, Peter Gethin took the victory at the Monza Grand Prix in his P160. With an average speed of 242.616 and the first six cars within a second, it went into the books as the fastest and most closely contested Grand Prix ever. Earlier in the season, Jo Siffert had already won a Grand Prix for the British team. At the end of the season BRM was second in the constructor's championship behind Tyrrell. A sad sidenote were the deaths of both BRM's lead-drivers, Pedro Rodriguez and Jo Siffert. Siffert's crash, was the only ever fatal accident in a BRM.

In various versions, the P160 would serve for another three seasons, but except for a single victory in 1972 it was no longer competitive. In these three years, the team finished seventh, sixth and seventh respectively in the constructor's championship. Based on the P160, BRM produced two cars designated P180 in 1972. Compared to the P160 the radiators were fitted on either side of the gearbox from their orginal position in the nose. This dramatically altered the weight balance, giving the P180 a horrible handling. The project was abandoned at the end of the 1972 season.

The round shapes of the P160 were abandoned early in 1974 when the Mike Pilbeam designed P201 was introduced. Apart from its angular flanks, it was a conventional design, which again integrated BRM's V12 engine. Jean Pierre Beltoise was very lucky to drive the P201 to a second place debut at Kyalami; in the remainder of the season he and team mate Henri Pescarolo were found on the other end of the grid. BRM's fate was signed when long time backer Alfred Owen passed away that season.

Although must of the original staff had left, the P201 was sporadically campaigned as a 'Stanley BRM' in 1975. In the following years, the BRM name re-appeared various times, but none of the projects were successful. It was a sad end to an exciting chapter in British motor racing history.

Featured is one of the surviving P201s. It is seen here in action at the 2006 Monaco Historic Grand Prix. Sadly a heavy crash in the second qualifying session meant the premature end of the weekend for the striking car.

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  Article Image gallery (9) Specifications