Brabham BT52

Published on 12 August 2020 at 17:28

The arrow-like Brabham BT52 is a car I have always loved. Especially because this was the first time Gordon Murray introduced strategic pit stops, starting with only 10 liters of fuel to demoralize the rest of the field (Alain Prost) at the start. The car ran on Michelin tyres and was powered by the BMW M12/13 four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which in 1983 produced a maximum power of approximately 1,280 bhp (950 kW) in qualifying trim, detuned to around 850 bhp (630 kW) for the proper races. Its drivers were 1981 World Champion Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese.


After the ground effect cars were banned at the end of the previous season, the FIA mandated that all F1 cars be designed with flat undersides for safety reasons. With just 6 weeks until the opening race in Brazil, this left Brabham with three fully built BT51's ready to go that were now useless, so Murray started from scratch and he designed the BT52. The previously crucial sidepods were now generating lift rather than suction and so the BT52 had short, angular sidepods to keep lift at a minimum. Murray also took a gamble and moved approximately 70% of the cars weight to the rear in an effort to obtain more traction. The car featured a distinctive dart-shaped profile and oversized rear wing in an effort to claw back as much downforce as possible, while the monocoque was built from aluminium and carbon fibre composite to keep weight as low as possible. The 1983 season saw refueling stops reintroduced after successful experiments in 1982 so the BT52's fuel system was designed with this in mind and had a small fuel tank positioned high up behind the driver.


The car was easy to drive and Piquet used it to good effect that season. Fighting with Alain Prost in the Renault and René Arnoux of Ferrari, it seemed he would lose out on the title after a run of mid season bad luck. But after German company Wintershall developed a special batch of fuel and further development to the car was done, he became the first driver to win the world championship with a turbo engine after winning three races, Brazil (Rd.1), Italy (Rd.13) and European (Rd.14), and scoring consistently with three 2nd and two 3rd places. Patrese on the other hand seemed to corner the market on Brabham's bad luck and while often as quick or quicker than Piquet (including leading the San Marino Grand Prix before crashing out with only 6 laps remaining, and grabbing pole at Monza) he didn't score a point until his third in Round 10 at the German Grand Prix. His only other points finish being his win at the season ending South African Grand Prix at Kyalami.

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