Big-money track-day cars are a big deal. From Ferrari's FXX models to Aston Martin's Vulcan to Pagani's Zonda R, these stripped-down, amped-up, slick-tired hypercars are doing land office business despite their seven-figure price tags. The $1.4 million McLaren Senna GTR is already sold out, as is the track-only version of the $3 million-plus Adrian Newey-designed Aston Martin Valkyrie, and both cars have yet to even turn a wheel. No wonder David Brabham has spotted an opportunity.
Brabham. If you're a motorsport enthusiast of a certain age, you'll recognize the name. David's father, Sir Jack Brabham, was a three-time Formula 1 World Champion, winning back-to-back titles in 1959 and '60 and his third title in 1966, at the grand old age of 40. David's older brother, Geoff, finished fourth in the 1983 Indy 500 and won the 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans. David himself started 24 F1 grands prix in 1990 and 1994 and also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2007.
Jack Brabham's third world championship was remarkable not just because it came at an age that today is considered well past retirement for an F1 driver but also because it is the only time a driver has won racing's ultimate title in a car of his own construction, carrying his own name. That history is the inspiration for the Brabham BT62, a track-day hypercar designed and engineered under the direction of David Brabham.
The BT62 is a mid-engine sports car, powered by a 5.4-liter naturally aspirated V-8. It's based on an engine from a mainstream automaker—Brabham won't say which—but has been extensively modified to develop 700 hp and 492 lb-ft of torque. The engine drives the rear wheels through a six-speed Hollinger sequential-shift racing transmission. Brakes are carbon-to-carbon items, with carbon pads actuated by six pistons acting on carbon rotors, a technology first introduced to F1 by Brabham in 1976. Tires are Michelin slicks.
Wrapped in carbon-fiber panels, the BT62 weighs 2,142 pounds, according to Brabham, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 653 hp per ton. A full-race aero package that includes an aggressive front splitter, a rear diffuser, and a giant rear wing is capable of delivering a monstrous 2,654 pounds of downforce at track speed.
Just 70 cars will be built, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Jack Brabham's racing debut (in a dirt-track midget; he won at his third event). Each will be priced at about $1.4 million, plus local taxes. The first 35 cars will be finished in paint schemes recalling the Brabham racers that won 35 grand prix between 1966 and 1985.
Where the Brabham BT62 differs from the other mega-buck track rats is the price will include personalized driver coaching sessions to help owners make the most of their cars on the track. With a chassis setup personally developed by David Brabham, the BT62 has no driver aids other than traction control. "The BT62 is a car that demands total engagement and commitment from its driver," says Brabham Automotive's director of technology and engineering, Paul Birch.
The BT62 will be built in a new 162,000-square-foot factory in Adelaide, South Australia, with the first customer deliveries expected later this year.
The BT62 is the first step in an ambitious plan to bring the Brabham name back to racing. Sir Jack Brabham retired from F1 in 1970, and the Brabham team was acquired in 1971 by former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. Nelson Piquet then won world championships in 1981 and 1983 with Brabham racers designed by Gordon Murray before Ecclestone sold the team at the end of 1988. After a succession of owners, the team collapsed in a bankruptcy scandal in 1992.
In 2013, the Brabham family won a three-year court battle over the right to use their name. "I set out 12 years ago to re-establish the iconic Brabham name," David Brabham says, "determined to see it return to global competition." Brabham won't be coming back to Formula 1, however, as the costs are simply prohibitive. Instead, the target is Le Mans, where if all goes to plan, a Brabham car could be on the grid within the next five years.