It was the most powerful engine Grand Prix racing has ever seen - including the glorious pre-war era with the mighty V12- and V16 units of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union.The 1.5-litre engine Bavarian Motor Works from Munich entered Formula One atthe South African Grand Prix in 1983 in a Brabham BT50 chassis reached a top level of nearly 1.500 bhp in its qualifying version. In spite of a politically difficult first season with a non-qualification in Detroit as its climax the Paul Rosche designed 4-cylinder-engine became so very fast a competitive one, that Nelson Piquet was able to win the Canadian Grand Prix one week later.

The whole project had begun as a top secret one. Far into the seventies it was considered impossible to turbocharge an engine of only 1.500 ccm successfully, and the poor results Renault had at their very beginning in Formula One made those critics confirmed in their theory. In the mid-eighties BMW entered the touring car scene with two different concepts of small turbocharged units. The Schnitzer team from Freilassing in the Southern part of Germany brought a 1.4-litre-turbo-engine to the grid of the DTM (German Touring Car Championship) as a private entrant in a BMW 2002 - chassis, driven by Austrian Grand Prix driver Harald Ertl and sponsored by Rodenstock glasses. The works entry had 1.5 litre of cubic capacity and a BMW 320 - chassis. This project had been developed in cooperation with McLaren USA and their own Detroit engine shop. The FIRST NATIONAL CITY - sponsored car never to be seen at the European tracks had been exclusively made for American IMSA racing and the BMW works drivers, Swedish Grand Prix star Ronnie Peterson and David Hobbs from Britain. After the starting reliability problems had been solved, it became obvious, that BMW had an excellent base for a Formula One engine. But the board of directors of the Munich car manufacturer was not able to make a decision for it. No, they did the contrast of it and expressed a strict ban to everything that had to do with Formula One and everybody at their Motorsport GmbH (Motorsport Department Ltd.) was threatened to be fired at once if continuing working on the Grand Prix subject! Paul Rosche, a funny Bavarian engineer, who loves Radi and Weissbier (radish and light Bavarian beer), was not very much impressed by that and continued developing the turbocharged engine for Grand Prix racing. When his boss, BMW head of sport Jochen Neerpasch, decided to quit his Munich job to enter the elite of Formula One principals as the boss of Ligier Talbot Gitanes, the Munich headquarters decided to sell their power unit to the Frenchmen to make its debut as a Talbot Peugeot engine! But Neerpaschs successor, Austrian Grand Prix journalist Dieter Stappert, was not able to find any written contract about that deal and in a long and hard series of conferences he convinced his bosses in the board of directors to start their own works mission in Formula One.

Not only in touring car racing but also in single-seater competition BMW has got a long and and successful tradition. In the sixties they started in the great Formula Two events with a works team of their own and star drivers like Jacky Ickx, Jo Siffert, Dieter Quester, Hubert Hahne and Gerhard Mitter (who died in the BMW F2 during the practice for the 1969 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife ) taking part. In spite of withdrawing their Dornier - built chassis (a Bavarian air-craft company) from the tracks at the end of 1970 with a fantastic victory of Dieter Quester against the Tecno Ford of Clay Regazzoni at the last round of the European Championship at Hockenheim (see separate F2-Story) BMW continued working together with the Austrian at the Eifelland team and a March 712M for the 1971 season on a private base. In 1973 BMW returned as a works team with the red STP March BMW 732s for Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jarier and rising German star Hans-Joachim Stuck and they also sold their 2-litre-normally-aspirated-F2-engines exclusively to March customers. A period of unbelieveable successses including times of pure dominaton began and a whole generation of star drivers like Patrick Depailler, Roger Williamson, Eddie Cheever, Manfred Winkelhock, Keke Rosberg, Derek Daly, Bobby Rahal, Marc Surer, Ingo Hoffmann, Bruno Giacomelli, Stefan Bellof and many, many more relied on the nearly 300 bhp-unit coming from Bavaria until Formula 2 was replaced by Formula 3000 at the beginning of 1985. At this time BMW


Brabham BMW BT54




was at the climax of their success in Grand Prix racing and still worldchampions with parmalat Brabham owned by Bernie Ecclestone and their Brazilian star Nelson Piquet, whose real name is Soutomajor. But because his father, a highly respected surgeon and Brazilian health minister, had not been happy with his son`s early motor racing ambitions when staying at a university in the United States young Nelson adopted the name of his Swiss origin mother mother being Kröger-Piquet.

It sounds absolutely incredible, but the world`s most powerful Grand Prix engine was based on a production block! That was taken from the 1969 presented type 2002 and reduced from original cubic capacity of 2.0 litres to the 1.500 ccm the Formula One regulations had allowed for turbocharged engines. To reduce inner tentions within the engine blocks BMW only took those ones that had done more than 100.000 kilometres - " they are like well-hung meat," as engineer Paul Rosche said, who had a very close relationship to Nelson Piquet considering him as a perfect test driver. Later a special treatment had been invented to imitate this high kilometre performance to avoid BMW to run out of old engine blocks. And the 4-cylinder-unit with up to 11.000 revs per minute demanded a verx "heavy" fuel to prevent the engine from blowing up. That synthetic petrol produced out of cole came from a German refinery and its recipe was based on a patent the Nazis once had developed for war purposes.

Regular pit stops for refuelling and tyre changes (not to be seen for more than two decades so far) had been brought to the tracks by Gordon Murray for the 1982 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch with the Brabham BMW BT50, that was still a ground effect car with wings inside both side pots and skirts for continious air-flow. For the 1983 season under the influence of the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association) regulations were changed dramatically. The ground effect cars having dominated the scene for the last five years were banned. Gordon Murrays answer to the new rules was the creation of the Brabham BMW BT52 looking very different to the majority of its competitors. There were no real side pots, the radiators for water and oil and the air-cooler were in front of the rear wheels beside the engine and the cockpit found its place behind the front axle for traction and aerodynamic reasons. The characteristic image of the BT52 was completed by the delta-front-wing and the triangular roll bar for the first time made out of carbon fibre that became an example for many other designs.

It was no doubt, that Alain Prost in the Renault RE40 was the dominating figure throughout the 1983 season and after the Austrian Grand Prix at the Österreichring near Zeltweg he thought it would be only a little step for winning the world title definitely. But with the victory of his home Grand Prix at Jacarepagua to his credit and a






lot of points following for further good results Nelson Piquet started the hunt for championship again when winning the Ialian and the European Grand Prix within weeks before coming coming to the last round to South African Kyalami ( which means My Home in the native language). With Prost (57 points) two points ahead of Piquet and French Ferrari driver Renè Arnoux (49 Points) having only a mathematical chance the Brazilian immidiately took the lead in the race. When Prost came into the pits in lap 36 he did not do that for fuel and fresh tyres but because of a broken turbo. Piquet reduced speed at once and let his team mare Riccardo Patrese and Andrea de Cesaris in the Alfa Romeo pass to bring his car home third safely. It was the second of three worldchampionships overall for Nelson Piquet and the Brazilian was on the climax of his popularity. To beat Renault, a company owned by the French state, brought enourmous prestige to BMW all over the world, the triumph gave great impulses to the German economy suffering from a deep crisis those days. BMWs involvement in Grand Prix racing was neither a crusade nor a blitzkrieg. And it had its sadest moment when Italian Elio de Angelis, the former JPS Lotus driver, died in the ultra-flat Brabham BMW at a Paul Ricard test session (near Le Castellet/Southern France) in May 1986 caused by a broken rear wing (for details see our Brabham BMW BT55-Story). The show was nearly perfect, when Nelson Piquet at the Brabham BMW BT52 entered the stage at the 1997 Frankfurt based IAA (International Automobil Exhibition). The only mistake he made was to stall the engine by hitting an electric cable. Never mind, the announcement made there was so sensational, because it had been exspected so long: The return of BMW Power for the year 2000.



BMW in Formula One 1982 - 1987


Sport Director: Dieter Stappert (Austria)

Technical Director: Ing. Paul Rosche (Germany)





In 1987 and 1988 - after the official withdrawl of BMW - the engine was used under the name of US-American company Megatron and prepared by Swiss engine shop Heini Mader by Arrows (1987 and 1988) and Ligier from France (1987)



Nelson Piquet (Brazil/Brabham)

Riccardo Patrese (Italy/Brabham)

Teo Fabi (Italy/Brabham, Benetton)

Corrado Fabi (Italy/Brabham)

Thierry Boutsen (Belgium/Arrows)

Elio de Angelis (Italy/Brabham)

Derek Warwick (England/Brabham)

Christian Danner (Germany/Arrows)

Stefano Modena (Italy/Brabham)

Marc Surer (Switzerland/Arrows, Brabham)

Andrea de Cesaris (Italy/Brabham)

Francois Hesnault (France/Brabham)

Manfred Winkelhock (Germany/ATS, Brabham)

Gerhard Berger (Austria/ATS, Arrows and Benetton)


BMW Grand Prix Victories 1982 - 1986

1982: Canadian Grand Prix/Montreal .................................................... Nelson Piquet/Brabham BT50

1983: Brazilian Grand Prix/Jacarepagua ................................................. Nelson Piquet/Brabham BT52

1983: Italian Grand Prix/Monza ............................................................ Nelson Piquet/Brabham BT52

1983: European Grand Prix/Brands Hatch ............................................... Nelson Piquet/Brabham BT52

1983: South African Grand Prix/Kyalami ................................................. Riccardo Patrese/Brabham BT52

1984: Canadian Grand Prix/Montreal ...................................................... Nelson Piquet/Brabham BT53

1984: United States (E.) Grand Prix/Detroit ............................................ Nelson Piquet/Brabham BT53

1985: French Grand Prix/Le Castellet ..................................................... Nelson Piquet/Brabham BT54

1986: Mexican Grand Prix/Mexico City .................................................... Gerhard Berger/Benetton B186






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