Brabham BT52: Looking Back at the Ground-Breaking Car

Brabham’s BT52 has become one of F1’s most iconic and most original cars. It is even more noteworthy how its look and design with its fanned-out rear, pencil-thin front, and radiators that are sited behind the cockpit came to be as a practical response by Murray a sudden regulation change.

For 1983, the F1’s governing body was intent on banning cars with ground effects due to G forces and cornering speeds that were massively increased. However, British teams were fighting this even during the off-season in 1982. Bernie Ecclestone, Brabham’s owner, was at the forefront of the resistance which led him to tell Murray to come up with a ground-effect car for 1983. The car was almost in its final stages when the news came out that cars with flat bottoms are going to be regulated for the 1983 season. As a result, Brabham’s ground-effect BT51 had to be shelved. Six weeks after, the Brabham BT52 got conceived and built and made its debut race in Brazil’s Rio where Piquet won.

Since the flat bottom regulations outlawed the floor’s venturi sections underneath the sidepods which had been resent in F1 cars for years, downforce got reduced drastically. The same effect was caused by the banning of the nylon side skirts that used to seal the under floors in order to give negative pressure.

According to Murray, the reduction of the downforce is going to have a negative effect on traction, which is important in a BMW motor that is turbocharged and has the ability to reach 1,000 bhp. As a result, much of the car’s weight was put on the rear axle. This rendered the sidepods and the sidepod venturis unnecessary. This allowed him to get the radiators moved far back. The axle line also got extended further back which gave the car a flatter deck for a better rear wing feed.

A mid race concept on refuelling was also incorporated in the car, which was re-introduced by Murray in 1982. It has a nozzle system that is pressurised along with a tank that is less than full-size. The smaller tank made it possible to better package the car. It also allowed for the creation of a space which allowed a cover for the engine, a critical factor in aero performance.

The car was also designed where changes to the suspension, engine, and gearbox can be easily made. A modular system was also created by Murray which was then copied widely subsequently. The entire rear end which includes the suspension, transmission, intercoolers, radiators, and the engine could even be built-up on just a single unit off the car. Murray does recall that the car may be the least adjustable as far as aerodynamics goes. They just made it in such a way where the adjustment in the front wing flap help balanced things out.

Brabham’s BT52, however, proved to be powerful and balanced enough to allow Piquet to successfully manage three wins out of the 15 races he entered. Add to that the fact that this is a beautifully-made car and the titles it won makes it even more noteworthy. Stay up to date with the latest developments in the motoring world by reading about Jack Brabham and Jack Brabham son online.