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Brabham plots more models as part of Le Mans dream

BT62 is the first step towards ambition of becoming an OEM

By Sam Sheehan / Thursday, March 07, 2019

Unless you’re in the market for a £1.2 million track car (or a £1.35m road-converted version), Brabham’s BT62 launch last year might have seemed like a bit of a flash in the pan. Behind the scenes, however, the people of the Australian brand have been working not just to build and deliver the run of 70 BT62s, but also to angle the firm towards an entry into Le Mans and the world of OEMs. As director Dan Marks puts it, Brabham isn’t just here to make a handful of track cars, it wants to be a proper manufacturer with a “suite” of models.

“The BT62 isn’­t the only variant we want to bring out, in fact, we ultimately want to get a fully homologated road car,” said the Aussie as we stood beside the BT62 on show in Geneva. “But it won’t necessarily use the same setup as the BT62. We’ll approach it like a traditional OEM, we’ll look for relevant partners for the engine and driveline, so it could be quite different.”

Although Brabham’s BT62 was revealed as a fully developed machine ready for track action (no concepts preceded it), the car is far from done and its customers are part of a wider development programme. Buying a BT62 immerses you into the Brabham journey, which right now is aimed at entering the World Endurance Championship and its crowning round, Le Mans. In that regard, the BT62 has more in common with a continually evolving thoroughbred than a conventional GT.

It also provides the basis for Brabham’s ambitions to create a future car line-up, the details of which are far from being decided. Marks said that Brabham was so serious about its OEM ambitions, which include producing road-legal machines, that hybrid and fully electric models would almost inevitably be required in the future. That’s quite the transition from the company’s comparably motorsport-focussed position today.

“We’re not setting out to be a volume player here, we’ll never compete with the likes of McLaren, which is delivering something like 5,000 cars a year,” adds Marks. “We want to keep our products even more niche and remain totally customer orientated. I can foresee a time when we have a suite of models, but we’ll never move away from the original Brabham ethos of making the customer feel like part of the family. That’s true to the way Jack used to work back in the ‘60s.”

Present customers of Brabham are constantly supported and remain involved with the company, providing feedback on elements such as the bespoke tube-frame chassis, so it and its surrounding components can be evolved. If all goes to plan, the finished product will be entered into the GTE class of Le Mans for 2021 or 2022. Hence Brabham needs to produce homologated road cars, as per the category’s regulations. Who doesn’t love the sound of more race-homologated road cars?

For now, however, the BT62 is Brabham’s baby. It’s the first step on the development ladder, although clearly a very advanced machine as is - if the recent Bathurst lap record wasn't evidence enough. PH climbed into the car on show at Geneva, and while access is typically racing car narrow, once in, the low-set bucket seats are very comfortable and there’s far more headroom than most GT cars, giving the cabin a surprisingly airy feel. Even the visibility through the windscreen is good, with the car’s broad front wings giving off a prototype-like feel from behind the wheel. If only we could have fired up the 710hp 5.4-litre V8 behind…

“We’ve made sure to set the car up so it’s easy to drive, it’s aimed at the ProAm category after all,” said Marks. “We’ve made sure drivers of all abilities can get in and go fast, and we make doubly sure of that by offering driver training as part of the package, with real time data so customers can see how to improve. It’s genuine Le Mans-level stuff.”

The company hasn’t got full WEC/Le Mans tunnel vision, however. Marks said it’s still happy to provide customers just wanting a track toy with their requests, and could even build bespoke creations, so long as they don’t “divert too far away from the current car”. Heck, they could also consider a one-make series if things really take off. At this point it’s just a dream, but, as Marks said, “a series of Brabhams flying around would be great - and good for spare parts sales!”. Indeed.

Whatever course it takes, we can’t wait to watch this potentially very exciting future for Brabham unfold.

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