Despite winning the 1971 Austrian and Italian Grand Prix BRM lost their Yardley sponsor to McLaren at the end of 1971, but started 1972 with a plan for a five car assault on the 1972 World Drivers and Constructors championships using three different models the P153 from 1970, the P160 from 1971 and a new design the P180. All three models were designed by Tony Southgate and there was some interchangeability of suspension that was used to update the older models.
The P180 differed from the earlier models by having the radiator at the front moved to the rear in a bid to get a 33/67 balance in the weight distribution from front to rear in a bid to improve traction.
One of the novel features of the P180 was the steering wheel popping up through the cockpit fairing.
The P180 made it’s debut at the Spanish Grand Prix with Peter Gethin at the wheel, Jean Pierre Beltoise also had today’s featured chassis #P180/2 available to him but found the older P160 more to his liking. Gethin started 21st and Beltoise started 7th, both retired.
Howden Ganley drove #P180/2 in the ’72 Monaco Grand Prix where he qualified 20th but crashed on lap 47. Beltoise won the race from 4th on the grid in the older P160, this would prove to be BRM’s final championship Grand Prix victory. With the weight balance of the P180 being more like 30/70 the P180’s were modified.
While the work was carried out the P180’s appeared at two non championship meetings, Reine Wisell qulified 7th for the Gold Cup at Oulton Park but was rear ended by his compatriot Ronnie Peterson on the start line which broke Reine’s finger and caused his retirement. At Brands Hatch for the Rothman’s 50,000 both Beltoise and Ganley preferred to race the older P160’s.
The P180’s appeared again at the Italian Grand Prix where Beltoise qualified #P180/2 16th and finished 8th to score the models only Championship race finish. Both P180’s were taken to the Canadian and US Grand Prix’s Bill Brack joined Beltoise in Canada and Brian Redman replaced the Canadian in the States. No finishes were recorded and the cars failed to qualify in the top 15 for either race.
The P180’s final appearance was in the non championship John Player Challenge at Brands Hatch, where Beltoise qualified #P180/2 7th. The track was wet at the start but Beltoise elected to go to the start line on intermediate tyres where as almost everybody else was on wet tyres. At the start of the race Beltoise was left behind but as the track started to dry out he was perfectly placed to pick off those ahead of him to score the BRM team’s final race victory.
Tony Southgate, who say’s of the car what it really lacked was a budget to develop the engine, left BRM to join Shadow for 1973 and BRM decided to retire the P180 in favour of using yet another update of the P160 for 1973.
Howden Ganley is seen driving the car above at last years BRM Day.
My thanks to Ray Bell, RCH, kayemod Rob and MCS at The Nostalgia Forum for their help in finding out the cause of Reine Wisell’s broken finger.
Thanks for joining me on this “Right Tyre, Right Time” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !