A GP fluke, a hillclimb winner
- Mattijs Diepraam
- 8W August 2000 issue
- BRM - The long road to success, by Felix Muelas/Leif Snellman/Mattijs Diepraam/Don Capps
- Four-wheel drive - The Cosworth F1 car and the history of four-wheel-drive in racing, by Mattijs Diepraam
- Four-wheel drive in 1969 Grand Prix racing - A closer look at the '69 4WD GP contenders, by Mattijs Diepraam/Michael Ferner
1964 British GP (practice on July 10, 1964)
We all know about the Ferguson P99 and the blob of 4WD enterprises during the 1969 season. But sandwiched between them in time there was one other all-wheel drive experiment that almost came to start a World Championship Grand Prix. It was the BRM P67, which was entered for the 1964 British GP as a third car alongside the regular RWD P261s of Graham Hill and Richie Ginther. Its driver was Dick Attwood, incidentally also making his first Championship appearance. But appear on the grid he did not. The 24th and last car on the grid, lagging just 0.2s behind Tony Maggs' Centro Sud BRM, didn't show up on Sunday when all the other 23 cars were present and accounted for.
What happened? Well, after having been a follower in the many revolutions F1 had seen during their stay in the formula, BRM this time started to look ahead to the forthcoming 3-litre regulations two years ahead of time. With the engine size about to be doubled, the Bourne works looked to drastic solutions to counter the sudden power increase. Four-wheel drive was one of the thoughts that came up. Experimenting with a P261-style monocoque, a young Mike Pilbeam fitted old-style P57 suspension and a Ferguson drive system to create a 4WD race car.
As was the case with the Tony Rolt/Claude Hill-designed Ferguson Project 99 from 1960/'61, the engine was turned through 180 degrees while the driver position was slightly offset the right to accommodate for a driveshaft running through the left-hand side of the cockpit. The torque was split in the middle, with 50 per cent going to both front and rear. Having been perfected over the years and raced in Indycars by Andy Granatelli, the system was trouble-free. But it weigh in at another 150lb, which was 15 per cent of the car's unsprung weight. With 200bhp on tap from the 1.5-litre engine it was bound to be handicapped. In any case, the idea was for the system to work for 3-litre cars.
The driving test bed was entered all the same for the 1964 British GP, Attwood driving after also having done the initial testing. To no-one's surprised it practiced well off the pace, managing a time over 7s slower than pole man Clark. Still it was just 0.2s shy of Tony Maggs in the Centro Sud P57. But to be fair, the troubled Maggs himself was over 1.5s adrift from young Peter Revson, the second-to-last man on the grid. On Sunday, BRM decided not to race the P67. After that, there was no serious thought to re-enter the car and the project lost its developmental drive, mostly due to the costs that would be needed for a complete rebuild of the car to make it light enough for the 1.5-litre formula. Then, in 1966, BRM fielding a heavily underpowered two-litre car for much of the season, the 4WD project was apparently stuck in one of Bourne's deepest drawers. Maybe that was because of JYS taking the opening Monaco GP in the 1.9-litre machine. Or perhaps their attention was unjustly diverted to their latest love baby - the megalomaniac H16 project. It seems strange that BRM actually decided to shelve an unsuccessful idea as they were perfectly willing to race many other bad ideas, such as the H16...
Much later, in 1968 in fact, BRM's 4WD project was resurrected by Peter Westbury, David Good and Peter Lawson for use in the RAC Hill Climb Championship. It is sheer irony that Westbury was a visionary twice, having led the Ferguson P99 to an easy British hill climb title win in 1964, precisely the year in which the P67 was first developed. Same story in 1968, when he saw the hill-climbing potential of the vanquished P67 before the F1 community jumped on the bandwagon in 1969.
By 1968, the P67 was fitted with a 2.1-litre Tasman engine and was running with a 70/30 torque split, with a well thought-out bias towards the rear. This created superior traction, the No.1 ingredient for a successful hill climb assault. With the new-style P67, Peter Lawson comfortably took the title, the second time an ex-F1 design beat the purpose-built regulars. You can only begin to imagine what the car would have done in F1 with a pukka 3-litre engine, its childhood maladies all wrinkled out, its weight problem cured or at least overwhelmed by the extra power output. But BRM did not persevere its initial line of thought and, ironically, the 1969 4WD experiments - all inspired on the Ferguson P99 system as well - were hampered by precisely their lack of dieting.
Meanwhile, the man responsible for P67's only competitive outing went on to become a sportscar great, culminating in 1970 with a well-deserved Le Mans triumph on board the big-thunder Porsche 917 he shared with veteran Hans Herrmann. On the other hand, his F1 career never got off to a good start, his single-seater activities in F2 being far more successful through the years. After his 1964 non-debut, Richard signed for Reg Parnell for 1965. Getting the outdated and underpowered Lotus-BRM 25 into the points twice in two late-season GPs were jobs well done, but no-one noticed. For 1966, he was out of F1, only to return after a late call to drive one of Cooper's T81s at Mosport in 1967. Then, early 1968, Mike Spence was tragically killed at Indy, and so Dickie was asked to step in at the team where he once was a test driver.
Debuting at Monaco, he starred - as usual, we might say, as his Monaco performances stand out miles above all his other F1 outings. Finishing second in the P126 (ahead of Bianchi in the Cooper), taking fastest lap in the process, was a stunning result, but by the time the F1 circus got to the 'Ring, Attwood had slipped to the back of the grid and was replaced by Bobby Unser - which proved to be a foolish decision, as Lou Stanley later admitted. Rather oddly, 13 years after his retirement he returned to Le Mans for a one-off in the Nimrod-Aston Martin.
These days, next to his business activities and fast-driving big knobs around for fun, Dickie is a regular at the Festival of Speed, blasting his Gulf Porsche up the hill and putting the hugely overpowered machine sideways through Clearways to the tremendous enjoyment of the crowd. It's truly a sight to behold.
Reader's Why by Roger Clark
Harry Ferguson Research designed and built the P99 in 1960/61. It was entered in three races during 1961, the last of them being the Oulton Park Gold Cup, where it was driven by Stirling Moss and won the race. It was raced again by Innes Ireland and Graham Hill in Australia and New Zealand during the winter of 1962/63. By this time the car was over two years old and doing well to be competitive with modern machinery. Peter Westbury used the car in the 1964 British hill climb championship which he won comfortably.
Ferguson never intended to get involved full time in motor racing, the P99 was built as an engineering test bed and to publicise their 4WD system. When they withdrew from racing, they offered the system to any British team which cared to use it. BRM were probably the only British team with the engineering facilities to take on such a project, and in 1964, they duly built the P67. To save time, and for easier access to the 4WD transmission units, the car had a space-frame chassis. The car used as many existing BRM components as possible. Consequently, and unlike the Ferguson, it was considerably overweight. It was entered for the 1964 British GP at Brands Hatch where the picture was taken. BRM had no intention of racing the car having more than enough to do with the P261 monocoque cars driven by Graham Hill and Ritchie Ginther. The car only appeared in one practice session on the Friday. Attwood lapped in 1'45.2", the slowest car in the field.
BRM didn't enter the P67 again. Whether this was because they had come to the conclusion that 4WD wasn't the right route, or whether it was because the 2WD cars were sufficiently competitive, is hard to say. The H16, built for the 3-litre formula in 1966, had provision for drive shafts to pass through the engine, but there was never a hint of a 4WD version. BRM certainly had enough problems with the H16 without the further complication of 4WD.
Like the Ferguson, the BRM P67 later appeared in the British hill climb championship. In 1967 it was driven in a few events by David Good, but before the end of the season he had sold it to Peter Lawson. Lawson used it throughout the 1968 season and walked away with the championship, winning all but two rounds. In the first of those he crashed and then missed a round while the car was being repaired.
Richard Attwood was a good F2 and sportscar driver who didn't quite make the grade in GP racing. He was closely associated with Lola, having some success in one of their F2 cars entered by the Midlands Racing Partnership. He also drove for Tim Parnell in GP racing. When Mike Spence was killed in 1968, Attwood took his place in the BRM team, which was managed by Parnell. His best result was a fine second place in the Monaco GP. He was subsequently dropped from that turbulent team and concentrated on sportscars. His greatest victory was in 1970 when, with Hans Herrmann he won the Le Mans 24-hour race in a Porsche 917. It was the first of Porsche's many victories at Le Mans. Attwood still appears from time to time in historic races and gatherings, usually driving a 917.