Brabham BT55

Brabham BT55

by Luca Dal Monte

At the moment of its presentation, the BT55 leaves everyone breathless. Gordon Murray has outdone himself once again. The car with which Brabham intends to tackle the 1986 World Championship is completely revolutionary. The BT55 is low, wide, thin, and effectively lacks the upper part of the cockpit, so much so that when the drivers sit at the wheel, their shoulders and arm movements are totally visible. The chassis is made of carbon fiber.

After pushing the previous model to its maximum development – the BT52 evolved into the 53 and subsequently into the 54 – Murray starts from the classic blank sheet. Ground effect has been absent in Formula 1 for three years. The rear wing has returned to be the main differentiating factor in a car’s downforce. Murray decides to remove everything possible between the car’s nose and the rear wing. Of course, he cannot move the driver, but he even asks BMW to redesign the inline-4 engine that has served Brabham so well in previous seasons, which will be tilted 72 degrees to be fitted into the car and contribute to the overall idea behind the BT55.

Brabham BT55 Image 1


Riccardo Patrese: After two seasons with Alfa Romeo, Riccardo returns to Brabham, where Bernie Ecclestone has always appreciated him. Despite the difficulty of driving it and the overall fragility of the BT55, in the first part of the season he manages to secure two sixth places at Imola and Detroit. The haul is meagre, but what follows is even worse: seven retirements in the last nine races of the season.

Elio De Angelis: After six seasons, Elio De Angelis leaves Lotus. Given the revolutionary car that he and Patrese find themselves with, there is much euphoria in the Brabham team. But the euphoria quickly fades in the face of the many problems of a car that is indeed beautiful, but perhaps ahead of its time. Elio finishes eighth in Brazil and subsequently suffers three consecutive retirements. On May 14th, he suffers a terrible crash during a practice session at Paul Ricard. He dies the following day.

Derek Warwick: The English driver replaces De Angelis starting from the Canadian Grand Prix. He will suffer a long series of retirements and no points finishes.

Our model cars:

Brabham BT55 Image 2

Unfortunately, the BT55 remains beautiful only on paper. The engine’s tilt brings more problems than benefits. Weight distribution is an added complication that affects both the car’s handling and its reliability. The car, which during the winter was speculated to be one of the season’s great protagonists, ends up gathering only two measly points.

Throughout the year, many modifications are made. But the essence remains unchanged.

Brabham BT55 Image 3