Brabham BT62 | Driven

Unless you have regular experience of top-flight racing there's a strong sense of not being worthy of the Brabham BT62. The realisation that I'm not remotely qualified to operate this weapon system comes half way through my second lap of Blyton Park, at which point I'm still passenger seat ballast. To my right is David Brabham, Le Mans winner and boss of his eponymous car company, who has just dropped the hammer.

Suddenly I'm in proper sensory overload territory. I've been lucky enough to drive some fairly senior stuff over the years and to passenger some in some competition icons. But within a couple of corners it's clear that I haven't experienced anything quite as serious as the BT62, not in terms of noise, organ-slosh or - especially - heat.

There isn't an intercom, so I'm denied any of the laconic commentary that Brabham gave during the sighting lap in his (not especially race driver-ish) BMW 520d. Longitudinal G-forces are predictably massive, this being a car with a power-to-weight ratio of 720hp per tonne and which is stopped with race-spec carbon-carbon brakes. But it's the lateral loadings and seemingly impossible speeds through Blyton's few faster corners that are outside the frame of reference.

The BT62 devours the tight, bumpy circuit like the race car that it pretty much is. By the end of the first lap I'm blinking sweat away inside my helmet. By the end of the three-lap stint I'm more puddle than human.

The cool-down lap reveals the BT62's lack of enthusiasm for slower progress, the engine banging and sending vibration through the car, the transmission whining and graunching. When we stop and DB shuts down the engine the sudden quietness seems deafeningly loud. "Reckon I've got it warmed up for you," he says. Because now it's my turn; PH has piggy-backed a test session at Blyton.

We've already told you plenty about the BT62, so I won't go into the full details again. The summary is exciting enough - a 700hp V8 in the back, a motorsport-grade sequential gearbox, 972kg dry and the ability to produce up to 1,200kg of downforce. Oh, and a seven-figure price tag. This car is one of the three early builds and isn't road legal, but the company is planning to sell an optional homologation package - for £150,000 - which will get it through an SVA. An idea that seems utterly ridiculous after just a couple of minutes in its company.

Getting into the driver's seat through the narrow aperture of the fully structural cage is proper contortion; I will never criticise a McLaren or Lotus again for lack of ingress. Then I just need to wriggle backwards into a bucket seat that feels a couple of inches narrower than my hips and start to battle with the six-point harness. Don't use a BT62 for a rapid getaway, they'd catch you before you got the engine started.

The cabin is properly basic. Barring some Alcantara trim on the top of the dashboard there is precisely nothing in here that doesn't help the car to go faster. Ventilation is a flexible ducting pipe that seems to be pointed in the vague direction of my crotch. The steering wheel has rotary controls for the throttle map and ABS and there's a centre console which does everything else. All information is relayed by a sizeable, bright display screen with a line of change-up LEDs incorporated into the binnacle above this.

It's definitely not a turn-key supercar. Getting the BT62 ready for a stint on track requires several mechanics and lots of staring at screens; as soon as it stops after each stint the rear panel is removed to try and keep engine temperatures down. It has built in air jacks for fast tyre changes, and a multi-channel telemetry system to relay my every input back to the pit garage that's been set up in the Blyton hangar.

The first big surprise is that it also has a clutch pedal, further filling an already crowded footwell. Once the engine has been summoned from its lair by the start button and is hammering at the bulkhead I have to press the clutch before selecting first, the pneumatically operated sequential box delivering this with another bang. It's fair to say the intimidation level is high.

First victory: I don't stall it. The engine barely acknowledges the existence of any rev below the four thousandth, but the clutch engages progressively and the BT62 and I bub-bub-bub out onto the track. Once moving, the transmission becomes paddle-shift only. Throttle response is immediately outstanding once the engine goes above its boggy hinterland, there are no turbos here, but job one is to remember to left-foot brake for half a lap to try and get some temperature into the carbon rotors and pads. Unlike road ceramics, these don't work until they get hot.

David Brise has the luckless job of sitting in the passenger seat; his regular job is as Goodwood Circuit's chief driving instructor, so he's used to higher speeds than those allowed on Blyton's 1.6 mile outer circuit. The lack of an intercom means advice is being relayed by hand, and after a couple of corners he's miming the unmistakeable gesture to push harder.

The big revelation is how unscary the BT is. There's a predictable abundance of grip from the fat slicks and huge turn-in, even into the really tight corners. I start off treating the throttle like a grenade pin, but soon learn that the Brabham's rear axle is pretty much as faithful as the front, certainly with traction control standing guard. It will digest serious power while turning and even though I can feel the back end considering its options as I start to accelerate earlier it doesn't let go.

Then there's the aero. None of Blyton is fast enough to reach the peak 1,200kg that the whale razor rear wing and diffuser can harvest from passing airflow; certainly not without mounting a serious challenge to the record for getting embedded furthest into the field at the end of the long straight. But even on the medium-speed stuff I can feel the BT gripping harder and turning more crisply as the sky hand starts to press. On the fastest esses on the back of the track it transforms the car; it takes me several laps to work out that Brise is signalling I can be a gear higher and another couple to build confidence that the car will turn. G-loadings are savage, properly uncomfortable, but the suspension is actually pretty compliant over Blyton's many bumps.

The problem is one of bandwidth. Not the car's, rather mine. Everything is happening so quickly that it's a genuine struggle to keep up; when I concentrate hard enough to get something right I inevitably find I'm doing something wrong shortly afterwards. Even at the end of my 10 lap stint I'm still braking too early, not believing that the carbon-carbons can shed speed as quickly as they can. Even for BT62 owners with garages already packed with exotica pretty much every day is going to be a school day.

Despite its headlights and its working indicators and the promise of that slightly ludicrous road compliant conversion, the BT62 is definitely a race car rather than a road car that's been turned up for the track. It's several rungs up the ladder from a McLaren Senna or a 911 GT2 RS, hell, it's faster and angrier than a GT3 car. Of course, it's also a huge amount of money; presuming you got on the lists for both, you could have both the aforementioned Senna and the GT2 RS for the same outlay - and would have to spend much less time explaining to your fellow millionaires what you'd bought.

But Brabham clearly reckons there is a niche for those looking for something even more exciting, with supported track days and the promise of a driver training programme. David Brabham also has a long record of proving doubters wrong, from his Le Mans win at the age of 43 to the seven-year legal battle to regain commercial control of the family name which came close to bankrupting him. The BT62 is the start of something, but definitely not the end; he wants to go racing, the stated aim is Le Mans in 2022, he also wants to build road cars. "We're a brand, not just a car," is how he puts it.

Those are big, tough challenges. But given what Brabham has already achieved, don't bet against him.

5,398cc, V8, naturally aspirated
Transmission: 6-speed sequential, rear-wheel drive
Power: 700hp @ 7,400rpm
Torque: 492lb ft @ 6,200rpm
0-62mph: 2.8-sec (est)
Top speed: 200 mph (dependent on gearing)
Weight: 972kg (dry)
CO2: N/A
Price: £1,200,000

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (62) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Nerdherder 31 May 2019

    What an experience. Mega. Looking forward to see Brabham run (this) in competition.

  • Maldini35 31 May 2019

    Looks great and clearly ‘gets down the road’ ok as MrBrewer would say.

    I think it’s great to see the name back and on a new car.

    Group test?

  • RumbleOfThunder 31 May 2019

    Fantastic thing. This has so much more appeal to me than a McLaren or Ferrari track day special, for some reason. I think the Brabham name is just cooler being a bit left-field.

  • BigChiefmuffinAgain 31 May 2019

    Really not sure who's going to buy this. Are there really enough people around with that sort of money to spend on a track only car?
    I wish them luck but suspect their prospects are challenging

  • C.MW 31 May 2019

    Damn, looks and sounds like (from YT) this Brabham would totally crush any ferrari, porsche, etc that gets in its way in no time.

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