The Brabham Racing BT92 Is a Beautiful, Brash Bastard
By Matt Davis, Contributor Email
We'll get to the driving hilarity in a second. After all, the stunning 494-horsepower
, 2010 Brabham Racing BT92 is based on the stunning 414-hp 2010 BMW M3 Coupe, so it's automatically a thrill and a half.
There's a lot of intrigue surrounding this car, labeled the Brabham Racing BT92 by its creator, Michael Trick. You might remember Jack Brabham, the three-time Formula 1 driving champion, who had nothing to do with this car and is monumentally p.o.'ed (in the form of his sons, IMSA racing champion Geoff and ALMS racing champion David) at this co-opting of the family name by some German upstart. And BMW itself was a little miffed over this new company's impetuous use of the BMW badge on one of its early Web sites, as if this were a BMW-certified project.
So we've had our doubts about this non-Brabham Brabham Racing BT92 thing ever since the car appeared last fall at the 2008 Essen Motor Show, Germany's equivalent of SEMA. But it turns out that the Brabham family had not nailed down any rights to the Brabham trademarks worldwide in recent years, so they were fair game. And that thing with the Web site and the BMW roundel was resolved when company owner Trick ordered the site killed.
Driving and touching and feeling tells the ultimate story about this ultimate M3. And the 2010 Brabham Racing BT92 is tremendous from the driver seat. Despite all that has been altered, however, it still basically looks pretty close to an M3, and we immediately wonder, therefore, about the plausibility of its asking price of nearly $310,000
Having the Best Costs Dough
Once we sat down with Brabham Racing's Michael Trick and other members of his team in southern Spain, we gradually came around to seeing the 2010 BMW M3 by Brabham Racing for what it is: a really ambitious piece of work that any driving enthusiast will be proud to own (if they can afford it, of course).
The people behind this thing are peerless. All engine work to the 4.0-liter BMW S65B40 V8 over the past two years has been handled in an exclusive deal with longtime BMW engineering pro Oliver Nowack, whose father was mentor to "Camshaft" Paul Rosche, himself the father of BMW Formula 1 racing engines. Technical chief to the Brabham Racing project is Andreas Hainke, the former tech boss of Volkswagen Motorsport.
The BT92's M3 engine has been upgraded to racing specification in almost every respect. The dimensions of the cylinders are now 93.3mm-by-80.2mm against the original 4.0-liter V8's 92.0mm-by-75.2mm, yielding a displacement of 4.4 liters
. A forged crankshaft has been carefully balanced and the camshaft profiles are new, while the cylinder heads have been machined for bigger valves and the pistons have been given a low-friction coating. Naturally, the all-new intake and exhaust systems have been optimized for more power, some 494 hp at 8,300 rpm and 354 pound-feet of torque at 5,700 rpm
Another aspect to the expensive, 20-day process that converts an ordinary 2010 BMW M3 to the Brabham Racing BT92 is the use of a full complement of carbon-fiber body panels (the M3 roof panel remains, of course). The result of all the carbon fiber is added structural rigidity, together with a weight loss of 110 pounds in the body alone.
The engine can still be serviced at any BMW-certified shop, and it's still compatible with the existing six-speed manual gearbox The standard M3's factory-estimated 4.5-second dash to 60 mph is improved by the BT92 to 4.1 seconds (3.9 seconds with the latest dual-clutch GK gearbox that's being developed as an option, we're told
), though the real leap forward in performance comes at higher speeds. Now that the electronic speed limiter has been disabled
, the new engine's redline of 8,550
rpm allows a v-max of 188 mph
Sound and Color
We accentuated our driving experience by keeping the Power button lit most of the time
for the full 494-hp output. Even with it unlit, though, the customized dual-tip exhaust system developed in collaboration between Brabham Racing's Nowack and exhaust experts Stüber is a bleeding cannon. Stüber has specialized for years in making those motorcycle exhausts that drive people in gated communities nuts, so the bark of this exhaust over 2,500 rpm sounds like the wrath of engineering being visited on Mother Nature. That is, it's pretty damned loud. When we said this to Trick, he answered, "Yeah, actually it's not yet quite loud enough."
This is a reminder that the Brabham Racing BT92 is not a BMW Alpina exercise in padded refinement and effortless momentum. Brabham Racing wants to, well, race.
As we were photographing the BT92 (the name is simply the conflation of the traditional Brabham "BT" racing designation with the BMW's E92 model label) among the hills of Andalusia, the car's Brabham Blue exterior played visually entertaining games with the light or lack thereof. At one moment in the hard, low winter sun, the car was screaming bright blue. The next moment, some cloud cover transformed it into a deep, dark, bruised blue. Bernd Paetz, the project's paint expert, refused to divulge the paint code for this magic job, but all Brabham Racing cars will wear it.
Better Than an M3?
For all that money and paint and fury and emotion, is the BT92 really better than an M3? Yes, it is. It freakin' well better be
. Fifty buyers total (that's the production run for this limited edition) are bound to find this out, too.
The six-speed manual transmission really seems suited to this lighter, more hard-core version of the M3. With the factory 2010 BMW M3, we prefer the effortless action of the dual-clutch seven-speed transmission and its shift paddles, yet we had a brilliant time slicing and dicing the empty two-lanes all over this part of Spain, with our right arm getting a workout and the gears engaging like buttah. Weight transfer while slaloming between rock outcroppings is really quick and crisp, as the adjustable coil-over dampers
are very nicely calibrated to the BT92, which weighs 330 pounds less at the curb compared to the conventional M3
These wild two-piece, forged 19-inch wheels
(one-piece versions are promised soon) with their nonfunctional dabs of carbon-fiber veneer
are a little over the top, but the added feel they deliver to the steering wheel cannot be denied. The 10-inch-wide front rims wear 265/35R19 tires
and the 12-inch rear rims carry 315/30R19 rubber
, both of the Dunlop Sport Maxx GT
persuasion. Brabham Racing also creates its own high-performance brake sets
, and the BT92's floating calipers
stop things better than the standard Bimmer items.
It's not a full interior job in the BT92, but we did feel the pleasures of the reupholstered blue seats
and thick-rim steering wheel
. The high-bolstered sport seats are naturally very supportive, and that always helps things during the wilder moments of rural road racing.
What's the Point, Really?
Much in keeping with the hard-bitten perfectionism of those two racing characters from Australia, Sir Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac (the "B" and "T" in all the BT designations), Michael Trick and his band of Nürburgring merrymakers have a lot personally invested in this deal. "We could have easily just dropped a V10 BMW engine into the front of this like everyone else does," says Trick, "but our point is to create truly deep and expert engineering statements."
Again in keeping with some of the old Brabham mojo, Trick tells us that the real inspiration for the entire project came, he says, from "falling in love with the BT52 F1 car in 1983 when I was younger and being really moved by the sound of the BMW turbocharged engines in the Gordon Murray chassis back when Bernie Ecclestone owned the team."
This is a valid point made with some honesty, and it's crucial to the BT92's future. In fact, Brabham Racing intends to break the lap record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife for modified production cars, set at 7:20 by a 2009 Dodge Viper ACR last summer. It will be done with the Clubsport version of the 2010 Brabham Racing BT92, which has been the real goal of the little company's whole M3 project. In fact, Michael Trick wants to take Brabham Racing into real motorsport with a team of BMWs in the World Touring Car championship and even one day (why not dream big), a team of BMWs for the DTM in a collaboration between Brabham Racing, Alpina and Schnitzer.
A Brabham car in racing again? That sounds good.