Dramatic V16 BRM

I have been digitising.

I have no pictures of the first time I saw it winning a race at Turnberry, Ayrshire. But I took some in 1967 at a Formula 2 race at Oulton Park when Jackie Stewart demonstrated it. What a sensational noise the supercharged V16 made. Stewart fairly lit up the back wheels on the Oulton Park start line

Up to the 1970s BRM competed in grands prix longer than anybody except Ferrari. They had watched the passing of Alfa Romeo, Alta, Gordini, Talbot, Cooper, Vanwall, Maserati, Connaught, Aston Martin, Porsche, Honda, Eagle and more. Yet it was a hangover from a bygone age. BRM arrived in racing about the same time as Fangio. Graham Hill had barely got behind a wheel; Jackie Stewart was ten. British Racing Motors was conceived by Raymond Mays out of the ashes of the pre-war English Racing Automobiles (ERA). The British motor industry, Mays reasoned, ought to be concerned with racing, if not individually then collectively. The old inspiration of racing for national prestige persisted.

If only it had been that simple. The resources of BRM would have been barely sufficient to run a team of ordinary cars, far less design, build and develop anything so monumentally complicated like the BRM V16, even if it was a copy of something Germany had been going to produce in the 1940s. The engine, a supercharged 1½ litre of astonishing complexity, would have been more than a new team could cope with.
Mays had miscalculated. He was out of tune with a new age and the entire British Motor Racing Research Trust that he had created eventually had to be sold. It was bought by industrialist Sir Alfred Owen, one of its earliest supporters. BRM was never forgiven its opening debacle at the Silverstone International Trophy race in 1951. Over-publicised and under-developed, the long-awaited V16 lurched forward a yard or two and stopped with a broken transmission.

It raced on after the formula for which it was built had been superseded, usually in British national races of little significance like the one I saw at Turnberry. In the first seasons of the 2½ litre formula BRM bought a Maserati to gain experience, then at the end of 1955 brought out its own car. Where the V16 had been complex and difficult to manage, the new car was simple, reliable and competitive. It failed to make the grade at first but by 1959 BRM had won a championship grand prix, although rival Vanwall had overtaken it and won the constructor's championship. It was only after Sir Alfred Owen had issued an ultimatum that unless it won races BRM would be shut down, that it gained the drivers' and constructors' world championships. In 1962 the 1½ litre V8 BRM gave the team, led by Graham Hill, its most successful season ever.