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SA-built Brabham takes flag after 37-year drought

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An Adelaide-designed and manufactured Brabham has beaten a field of Porsches, Audis and a Lamborghini in Italy to record the brand’s first competitive motorsport victory since the 1985 French Grand Prix.

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The Brabham BT63 GT2 moved through the field to win the GT2 European Series race at the Misano World Circuit near San Marino on the weekend.

It was the car’s fifth race of the 2022 series and the first time it has been on the podium after mixed results in the first four races at Imola, also in Italy, and the Red Bull Ring track in Austria.

After starting 10th of 13 cars on the grid on Saturday, the Brabham Automotive Factory Racing car overtook the race leader on the final lap before crossing the line 0.79 of a second ahead.

“A lot of things have got to go right for you during the race and having the safety car coming out towards the end allowed us to get a bit closer to first when we were in second,” Brabham Automotive CEO Dan Marks said.

“It gives us credibility – if you are consistently racing against Porsche, Audi and Lamborghini and winning then you move from a company that manufactures gentlemen racers to a company that can manufacture and sustain competitive motorsport vehicles.

“The feedback we’ve had has been completely positive and it creates that platform for us not to just be a one-off victor but actually to push through in the GT2 series and get other teams and drivers to promote those vehicles.”

Brabham is part of the High Class Racing team in the series that features amateur and professional drivers.

The team’s amateur driver Kevin Weeda qualified 10th and started the race, moving up to 8th position when the drivers swapped after 20 minutes.

Professional driver Anders Fjordbach, last year’s series winner, weaved through the field in the final 30 minutes of the race and secured the win with a brilliant last lap pass.

Winning Brabham drivers Kevin Weeda (centre left) and Anders Fjordbach. Image courtesy of SRO Motorsports Group.

It is the first time a Brabham car has won a competitive race since Nelson Piquet’s victory in the 1985 French Grand Prix, Brabham’s 35th and final Formula One win.

David Brabham, the son of three-time Formula One world champion Sir Jack Brabham, unveiled Brabham Automotive’s BT62 car in 2018, announcing that manufacturing would take place in Adelaide.

The track BT62 sells for about $1.3 million with a modified road version available for $1.8 million.

The company developed the BT63 to comply with racing standards so it could compete at GT2 level, helping to bring the price down to $625,000 or 400,000 Euros.

The first BT63 was manufactured in mid-2021 and made its race debut in October following an invitation to participate in the final race of the 2021 GT2 European Series in France.

The Brabham cars are designed and manufactured at Edinburgh Parks in a facility shared with sister company BusTech.

The group is owned by Fusion capital, which has about 120 staff at the facility in Adelaide’s north.

While it doesn’t disclose the total number of vehicles made or sold, Marks said Brabham had manufactured a combination of road and track BT62s that had predominantly been sold into Europe.

“The BT63 is the baby brother to the BT62, an unrestricted GT car, whereas the BT63 GT2 complies with certain rules and regulations so it can race in the GT2 series and it can now race in any GT series around the world,” Marks said.

“The specification is a bit more mainstream and not as bespoke or high-end as the exclusive BT62 – we’re coming down into the bracket where we need to compete from a spare parts perspective.

“For example, the BT63 has an aluminium floor whereas the BT62 has a fully carbon floor, which saves 10 kilograms so there are areas where we need to add weight to the vehicle but by adding weight we reduce cost.”

The Brabham name has always been strong in the UK and Europe because of its Formula One success in the 1970s and ‘80s but the company is looking to have more of its cars race elsewhere – including Australia.

“There’s plans to build off what we’ve created in Europe and look overseas maybe to the US, Asia and Australia to follow the GT series around,” Marks said.

“If you look at the DNA of the Brabham brand it’s always been in motorsport, and for us it was relaunching the Brabham name in the same guise it had been previously and create that brand equity and getting people to recognise and resonate with the brand to create a platform so we can grow into not just track cars but road cars as well.”

Marks said one of the reasons David Brabham wanted to establish in Adelaide was to prove that quality cars could still be made in Australia.

“We still believe that capability exists,” he said.

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