Yesterday evening one of the most revered and recognisable names in international motorsport vowed to return to the track. Brabham is a name synonymous with innovation. It is a brand that has always taken pride in its willingness to do things differently. Yesterday’s announcement that David Brabham has launched a crowd-funded LMP2 programme for the World Endurance Championship plans to revive those original elements, and was met with a wave of support from motorsport fans across social media.
The project’s overall aim is to create a successful open-source LMP1 team, while ventures into Formula E and Formula 1 have also been mooted.
Just where have Brabham been all this time, though? After winning four Formula 1 Drivers’ Championships and two Constructors’ Championships the team encountered financial difficulties in 1992. By this time Bernie Ecclestone had already sold the team, which was now in the hands of the Japanese Middlebridge Group. Brabham was withdrawn from Formula 1 competition halfway through the 1992 season as Middlebridge folded, and is yet to make its return.
The Brabham family had since lost the rights to use their name as an organisation, which was essential for David Brabham’s new project. He fought a seven year legal battle with a German company to re-instate the team’s name, and won. As a result, the Brabham name will return to motorsport in the rightful hands of the family. It isn’t just a sentimental victory, though. The Brabham brand is likely to pull in the big name investors who will take a significant level of interest in the project.
Although ‘Project Brabham’ is very much in its infancy, questions have already been raised about the ‘open-source’ crowd-funding scheme that will drive the team’s finances. The current economic demands that teams must face when entering the highly competitive WEC mean that only the constructors with the highest budgets can compete at such a level. As such, the concept would need to gain monumental support in order to purchase the necessary components to form an LMP2 team, including a car, transport and parts.
The mild skepticism coming from some fans is understandable. However, with the aid of the Brabham brand name, raising awareness and the necessary funds should be realistically achievable. Crowd-funding can be successful, after all. The Thrust SSC project had to call on thousands of members of the public to pledge money in order to run what is still the fastest car in the world. The initiative was new and risky (its use of the internet to collect donations was particularly innovative), but in the end it achieved its ultimate goal. With the Brabham name on-board, this exciting project is certainly following in the footsteps of the Thrust SSC appeal: so far nearly £50,000 has already been raised as part of the drive to reach a £250,000 total.
One of the most ambitious areas of Project Brabham is its utilisation of collective thinking. This essentially means that the fans will be granted exclusive access to the day-to-day running of the team. This will be achieved through the sophisticated Brabham-Fan portal (most definitely not a reference to the BT46!), giving fans the first-hand details on technical developments, driver signings and test sessions. It’s a brave idea. The current LMP1 manufacturers are largely sworn to secrecy when testing their latest components at closed-door facilities. The openness that Project Brabham promises is a breath of fresh air, and will likely captivate people who decide to pursue their own career in motorsport. This theme of collectiveness is what makes the project stand out, yet it’s a simple proposition. After all, history has often taught us that thousands of minds work better than one.
Brabham are aiming to be on the track by 2015. Yes, it’s ambitious. Key details like the engine and chassis suppliers are yet to be filled in, but as soon as enough fan money is donated then the concept will begin to take off. David Brabham is being very brave with his new venture; it’s the sort of gamble that can go one of two ways. Yet, with public support and the ethos of collective thinking propelling the dream, we can be assured that one of motorsport’s most legendary names will be pushing at the head of the field once again.
Sir Jack would be ever so proud.
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