The engine that imbued the Brabham BMW BT52 with its legendary status was developed by BMW Motorsport GmbH under the guidance of its then Technical Director, Paul Rosche. His team furnished the British Brabham racing team with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit featuring 16 valves, a turbocharger and – in a first for Formula One – Digital Motor Electronics. This mix made for an awesome power potential, with experts estimating its maximum output at up to 1,400 hp. Rosche’s response to such speculation was typically understated: “We don’t know for sure as the dyno didn’t go beyond 1,280 hp.”
The BMW turbo engine was first deployed in a Formula One race at the start of the 1982 season; 630 days later Nelson Piquet drove the Brabham BMW BT52 to world championship victory. His title win marked the close of an unusually exhilarating season in which Piquet started from pole just once but clocked the fastest race lap four times and won three out of 15 races. He made eight podium appearances, collecting 59 world championship points over the season to take the 1983 Drivers’ World Championship title.
The race car Piquet piloted along the road to victory continues to impress to this day with its 1980s-style arrow-shaped design and its extraordinary engine power. In 2013, exactly 30 years after Nelson Piquet’s triumph, the Brabham BMW BT52 was roused from its automotive retirement and ushered back onto the race track. Numerous mechanics who were involved in its development more than three decades ago were recruited for its extensive restoration – among them Paul Rosche. The car made its first public appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July 2013.