British Racing Motors
In 1933 Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon founded English Racing Automobiles (ERA) along with Humphrey Cook. The team was based in workshops to the rear of Mays' home in Bourne, Lincolnshire, and raced 1½ litre voiturettes with some success in the pre-war years.
But during World War II Mays and Berthon dreamed of building a fully fledged British Grand Prix car for the post-war era as a national prestige project.
With the support of Lucas, Girling, Rolls-Royce, Vandervell, Rubery Owen, David Brown, Standard Motors, and many more, British Racing Motors was formed and work began in earnest in 1947.
Berthon had designed a revolutionary and highly complex supercharged 1½ litre V16 engine intended to meet the current Formula One regulations that would go on to become the formula for the Drivers' World Championship in 1950.
Unfortunately the design was so complex that development was lengthy, and although it was extremely powerful the engine proved unreliable. The V16 was not fired up until 1949, and the car was not ready for the 1950 season.
By 1952, with little success to show, the BRM Type 15 became obsolete before it had even been properly developed, thanks to a rule change in Formula One setting out new engine regulations for 1954. With Alfa Romeo withdrawing from the World Championship in 1952, and BRM providing little competition to Ferrari, the FIA also bowed to pressure from race organisers and decided that the World Championship Grands Prix would be run to Formula Two regulations for the 1952 & 53 seasons.
Backers withdrew from the project, frustrated by the lack of progress, leaving Alfred Owen of the Rubery Owen group to take over the team, racing under the official name of the Owen Racing Organisation.
BRM continued to race the Type 15 in minor Formula One races and in British Formula Libre events until the mid fifties, but after so much hype and publicity the general public were disillusioned.
BRM's next engine took a more conventional route, but again took longer than expected to develop, not making an appearance until 1956. It wasn't until 1958 that BRM began to enter their new car, the P25 into Championship races on a regular basis. BRM did however finish fourth in the first International Cup for F1 Manufacturers that year. Finally they'd made some progress.
By 1959 the Type 25 car was running competetively and reliably, and BRM finally took its maiden F1 victory, with Jo Bonnier winning at Zandvoort, and finished third in the International Cup for F1 Manufacturers.
But the front engined format was by that time being superceded by the rear engined cars, so BRM reacted by using the components from the P25 to create the rear engined P48. Reliabilty issues meant that the results were disappointing.
Formula One engine regulations were changed again for the 1961 season, and like most other teams BRM were caught off guard and chose to use Coventry Climax engines whilst they developed their own engine. But the car was heavier than the similarly engined Cooper and Lotus so lack of pace was a problem.
By 1962 the team's new engine was ready, and Tony Rudd was given full technical control over the team, charged with eliminating the reliability issues which had plagued the team for years. With Graham Hill as their number one driver BRM got off to a flyer, winning the first race of the season, the Dutch Grand Prix.
The BRM P57 proved to be quick throughout the year, but crucially it also proved to be more reliable than its main rival the Lotus 25.
Graham Hill went on to win four of the season's nine races to take the World Drivers' Championship, with BRM also taking the International Cup for F1 Manufacturers.
BRM had finally achieved what it had set out to do fifteen years earlier.
Although 1962 proved to be BRM's only World Championship, the team continued to be quite a force in F1 for several years, finishing second in the Constructors Championship in 1963, 64 and 65, and scoring 12 of the teams 17 Formula One victories in the period from 1962-66.
The team's P56 engine was also well regarded and powered several other team's cars as well as their own. At the 1963 British Grand Prix, BRM engines powered 10 of the 23 cars on the grid. The following year 14 cars, more than half of the entry list at Brands Hatch were powered by BRM engines.
BRM's insistence on designing and building its own engines was at odds with many other British teams of the time, and the sheer ambition of doing so with such a small team had proved to be BRM's achilles heel on several occasions. But for four years, that decision made British Racing Motors one of the most successful teams in Formula One.
However, 1966 brought another change in engine regulations, and another overly ambitious engine design.
BRM opted for another 16 cylinder design, this time it was almost like two engines bolted together. Unfortunately the engine was not only heavy, it was disastrously unreliable, retiring from 30 of the 40 races it started.
The engine did manage one victory, but not for BRM. Jim Clark took his BRM engined Lotus 43 to victory at Watkins Glen in 1966.
The engine was dropped in favour of a V12 in 1968, but victories still eluded the team. In fact it would be nearly four years between Jackie Stewart's 1966 victory in Monaco, and Pedro Rodríguez's victory at the Belgian GP of 1970.
By this point Tony Rudd had left the team, and Tony Southgate took charge of designing the P153 and P160 cars.
Two more victories followed in 1971, for Jo Siffert in Austria, and Peter Gethin at Monza. BRM's final race win came in 1972 with Jean-Pierre Beltoise winning in Monaco.
The team limped on until 1977, but the Owen Organisation ended its support of the team in 1974 and it was run on a lower key basis by Louis Stanley and some of the Bourne personnel as Stanley-BRM.
The British are Coming
BRM had set out with the ambition to match and beat the German teams of Mercedes and Auto Union which were dominant before the Second World War. But as it turned out it would be the Italian teams of Alfa Romeo and Maserati that ruled the roost in the post war years, and of course Ferrari became serious contenders a little later.
But BRM were not the only British team aiming for the honours. In fact those post war years saw a massive growth in British motorsport, and by the late 1950s the British teams of Cooper, Lotus, Vanwall and of course BRM were mounting a serious challenge.
Vanwall won the British Grand Prix in 1957, the first British built car to win a World Championship race. They also won the inaugural International Cup for F1 Manufacturers in 1958, which was what we'd now call the Constructors' Championship.
Cooper then went on to win both the Drivers' and Constructors' Championship in 1959, and 1960. BRM then won both Championships in 1962, Lotus repeated that in 1963, 1965, 1968, 1970, and 1972, and Tyrell did the same in 1971.
In just a few years, the old order had been overturned, and BRM had played its part in that. BRM might not have been battling against Mercedes or Auto Union as Raymond Mays had originally envisaged, and they couldn't get sorted in time to compete with Maserati. But they were part of that initial British wave of success in Formula One that has continued to this day.
BRM are still known today as a 'glorious failure' in certain quarters. But we have to ask if that's a fair assessment?
If a team from a small town in Lincolshire, that was so ambitious that it even built its own engines, and that actually won a World Championship can be classed in any way as a failure, then we must have our definition of the word failure all wrong.
In spite of all the early problems, and all the unfulfilled expectation, BRM are one of a very select group of manufacturers to win a World Championship, and that by its very definition puts British Racing Motors in a very elite group. For one year at least, they were the best in the world.
Our story here is one of a journey, as told through the photos taken by Dennis "Sheriff" Perkins, a BRM team mechanic. That journey took British Racing Motors from being an ambitious disappointment, right through to being World Champions, and back again.
We will obviously try to tell you the whole story of BRM, but we will naturally contentrate on the period where we have the unique photos taken by Perkins. That "Inside Story" spans 1958-1964, and we believe it is a fascinating insight from behind the scenes.