BRM fires up ‘new’ V16 motor

Iconic F1 racer once used by Fangio is set to be reborn this year – and we're just days from hearing it

By Sam Sheehan / Wednesday, March 17, 2021 / Loading comments

Four months after BRM announced it was building a run of three ‘continuation’ V16-engined P15s, the marque has provided a promising update of the progress: it’s on course for completion this year. Not only that, but BRM promises a video is coming this weekend to give us a sneak peak of what the iconic 1.5-litre V16 motor (oh, to have the same technical freedoms in F1 today!) sounds like in 21st century surround sound. The first P15 will go to John Owen, the 81-year-old son of original BRM team principal Sir Alfred Owen. Owen junior was just 10 when Juan Manuel Fangio was establishing himself as a legend using V16 power.

Despite all that history, just one example of the supercharged P15 remains in a static museum collection, meaning this year’s ground-up, new P15 build will provide a rare chance to hear this 12,000rpm motor at full chat again. Best of all, the two other BRMs will be sold off with full FIA historic certification, utilising originally allocated but unused chassis numbers from the fifties. Meaning they can compete against period machines with real authenticity.

Every detail is said to be correct; the cars are even being made by Hall and Hall, a company headed by former BRM engineer, Rick Hall, at RAF Folkingham, Lincolnshire, where the original BRM Formula 1 team worked. The first engine is even based off an actual fifties build, motor ‘number two’, which hasn’t been run since BRM driver, Jose-Froilan Gonzalez, accidentally over-revved it during BRM’S 50th Anniversary celebration at Silverstone in 1999. We can probably let him off for the mistake because former F1 driver Gonzalez (pictured above) was 77 at the time.

“It is a phenomenally complex engine, and there are a great deal of highly engineered parts to get right,” said Hall. “Rebuilding and re-engineering many of the original parts has proved to be a key stepping-stone as we gear up for the manufacture of three all-new power units which will be at the heart of the new project. There is little margin for error with these parts, right down to 1,000th of a millimetre. For example, we had some earlier issues with the Rolls Royce supercharger, which we had to rebuild from scratch, so through trial and error we are flushing out these issues and also learning a great deal about how this engine behaves.”

“We didn’t want to push it too hard on the dyno”, added Martin Smith, Hall and Hall’s chief engine technician, after a recent dyno run. “But even so, we estimate we got about 550bhp at 10,000rpm and 2.5psi – which is a huge step forward as we continue to build our experience and understanding of this astonishing engine.”

It’s probably worth reiterating those numbers: 550bhp (about 558 metric hp) at 10,000rpm from a 1.5-litre engine. From the 1950s. The engineering achievements of Formula 1 from those days are astonishing now, let alone back in the days when a 30hp Morris Minor was Britain’s best-selling car. Still, if that’s not enough to give you goosebumps, perhaps the upcoming video, a short teaser entitled ‘The Reawakening’ will do the job. It’s due to go live on Sunday at midday on the BRM website; rest assured we’ll be embedding it here when the time comes.

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