BRM logo with text, BRM The Inside Story

BRM P153-160


A BRM P153 cutaway drawing


BRM had fallen from the heights of winning the World Chapionship in 1962, to the depths of scoring just seven points in 1969.

The team's insistence on building its own engines was an admirable, if unusual approach. With the exception of Ferrari, the other teams chose the best engine they could find, wherever it came from.

Obviously there were times when BRM got their engine designs right. The P56 engine for instance was very amongst the very best, and BRM won the World Championship with it. The subsequent P75 engine however, was nothing short of a disaster.

There even seemed to be an element of BRM shooting itself in the foot. Their insistence on continuing with the sixteen cylinder engine which was overweight, and unreliable caused a dramatic fall from grace. By the late 1960s, much of the rest of the field were simply buying the Ford Cosworth DFV engine, and winning with it, whilst BRM struggled to make up lost ground.

The team never truly recovered their place at the top table, but there was something of a resurgence.


In 1970 BRM regrouped with Tony Southgate as designer, and Pedro Rodríguez was brought back into the fold to partner Jackie Oliver. The team was renamed Yardley Team BRM, and reliveried with the distinctive and fondly remembered "Y" of the sponsors Yardley cosmetics.

The BRM P153 might not have been a world beater, but it had reasonable pace.

But Oliver's car in particular seemed to break down frequently, resulting in only two race finishes in the season for him.

Rodríguez however, managed to finish eight races, and in amongst some lower points finishes were two outstanding results. There was a second place finish in the USA, which might have been better if the car hadn't run out of fuel. But much, much more importantly there was victory in Belgium, the first for BRM since 1966.

By the end of the year, BRM had still only finished sixth in the International Cup for F1 Manufacturers, but they'd scored a relatively respectable 23 points. Moreover they had that most precious of things, a Grand Prix victory.


A BRM P160 cutaway drawing

In 1971 BRM introduced the P160, a development of the P153. The team fielded no fewer than eight drivers over the course of the season, and entered four cars in the final race of the season, all of which finished, and two of which scored points for second and fourth places.

Unfortunately both of the team's main drivers died in accidents unrelated to the F1 championship; Pedro Rodríguez at an Interserie race in July, and Jo Siffert in a non-championship event in October, after the season had finished.

In spite of these tragedies BRM scored well for the season, with Jo Siffert taking victory in Austria, and Peter Gethin winning in Italy. Reliability was much improved with only five retirements for the whole season. Perhaps because of this, a healthy smattering of points from Siffert and Rodríguez meant that BRM finished second in the F1 Manufacturers championship.

Admittedly it was a distant second, with Tyrell winning handsomely. Nevertheless, BRM had beaten Ferrari, Lotus, March, McLaren and Matra.

1971 BRM P160

BRM P160 elevation drawings


In 1972, BRM took on a new sponsor, and became the first F1 team to take to the track in the iconic Marlboro colours.

But results were disappointing, and reliability issues crept back in.

The team finished a disappointing seventh in the International Cup for F1 Manufacturers with 14 points. In truth nine of those points had come from a brilliant drive from Jean-Pierre Beltoise to take victory at a soaking wet Monaco. That result was not just an outlier for the season, it proved to be the last ever win for BRM.


A BRM P160e painting

BRM continued in a similar vein for the next two years. They continued with the P160, and they managed to finish seventh again in both years, though with gradually diminishing points.

The team introduced the P201 in 1974, but despite a brilliant second place on its debut, the car proved to lack pace and reliability.

The Owen Organisation dropped its funding of the team, and Marlboro moved over to McLaren.


BRM now became Stanley BRM, and limped on in a lower profile form for three more years, at which point the team finally folded.

Obviously Formula One teams come and go, sometimes with alarming regularity, and even the most successful teams have more more tales of woe than stories of glory, that's just the nature of motorsport at the highest level.

But BRM had something special about them, and they've been missed. That's partly because they were World Champions, and only 14 other teams can say that in the seventy year history of the World Championship. But it's also because there is something admirable about the sheer ambition of insisting that a small team from Lincolnshire could build their own cars and even engines, yet still hope to beat the might of Ferrari on their own terms. Well for a few years they did just that.

Never mind Ford v Ferrari. The late 1950s and early 1960s were all about the "garagistes" of Great Britain, battling the more established pride and power of Italy. In some ways you could argue, that's still the game, with the suave and sophisticated Italians still trying to swat away those scruffy but effective Brits. I say all that with tongue firmly in cheek, but I'm sure you get my drift.

The wider point, simply put, is that BRM were right there when the British teams were trying to rewrite the route to success in Formula One, and succeeding.

But rather than fighting the pre-war Mercedes and Auto Unions as Raymond Mays had imagined, they were scrapping with the post-war Alfa Romeos, Maseratis, and Ferraris. But such was the success of first Vanwall, then Cooper, BRM, Lotus and so on, that the British teams turned the game right on its head.

British Racing Motors were a part of that, and they helped to lay the foundations of a thriving, independent, and successful motorsports industry in the UK.

Naturally there have been attempts to revive the BRM name, but British Racing Motors have so far stubbornly refused to be resucitated in any meaningful way.