Then, in the final races of the season,
things began to move in Piquet’s direction,
thanks to an upgraded B-spec BT52,
but also an extra push from BMW’s Paul
Rosche, especially on fuel development.
“The rules governing fuel were quite
tight on oxygen-bearing content, but they
were still pretty open,” says Murray. “I have
to give Bernie credit – I think he said to
Paul Rosche one day, ‘What about fuel?’ Paul
“I have to give Bernie credit –
I think he said to Paul Rosche
one day, ‘What about fuel?’”
had a huge amount of experience in fuel,
having worked on so many different engines.
He had a good relationship with BASF, and
they looked at the regs and said, ‘Sure,
there’s loads we can do.’ And they did!”
“We’d been using fairly odd fuel for a
while,” says Whiting. “I recall you couldn’t put
anything plastic in it, and you didn’t want to
get it on your hands. It was unpleasant stuff.”
In Holland, Piquet and Prost clashed
while disputing the lead and neither man
scored. With just three races to go, Nelson
was 14 points behind – but with 27 still on
offer from those remaining GPs, he was in
the hunt. Momentum began to build at
Monza, where Prost retired and Piquet
won, bringing the gap down to five points.
He triumphed again in the European GP at
Brands Hatch, but Prost followed him home
in second, holding on to a two-point lead.
To most people it appeared to be wide
open heading to the Kyalami finale, but for
Murray oversees a
pit stop at Brands
– pressurized beer
kegs not pictured.
(LEFT) Flames on
the overrun. Nice!
some reason Renault’s marketing folks
regarded a Prost success as a foregone
conclusion, flying the French media over in
force and printing celebratory publicity
material in advance. The complacency
served only to motivate the Brabham boys.
After qualifying, Piquet was in the driving
seat, lining up second, with a nervous Prost
down in fifth. It was game on. The Brabham
man even snuck into the Renault garage
and added a “Nelson Piquet Fan Club”
sticker to Prost’s car. Alain tried to go along
with the joke, even wearing it on his overalls
for a quick photo op. But when the race
got underway, things got more serious.
“We pulled a bit of a masterstroke at
Kyalami,” says Murray. “Renault were so
hyped up, they had the t-shirts and the
hats printed, literally, and they were in the
garage next door. We were playing rock
music and being our normal selves.
“We were normally fuel-stopping at
around 60-70 percent race distance,
because that way we could run much
lighter. Then we put a bit of extra fuel in at
the stop just to be over the weight limit. So
we’d run right on the limit in the first part
of the race – or for a few laps the car might
go under for a bit. So what? I don’t think
“That was another Bernie thing, ‘Deal
with this one Gordon!’ We’d got our
turbos back and now, ‘Here, have a brand
new tire company.’ The tires were just
ridiculous. Whoever they’d ran with before
obviously wasn’t producing any downforce.
“We went testing in Estoril, put the tires
on, and the car came past on the rims on
the straight. We squashed the tires flat with
the downforce! So they had to redesign
all the tires. We lost that season trying to
get the tires right. All the hard work we
did in 1983 was chucked away the next
two years. But that’s motor racing...”
“THAT’S MOTOR RACING”
LET THE BAD TIMES ROLL
We remember 1984 as the year of Niki
Lauda vs. Alain Prost at McLaren. In fact,
it should have been Brabham’s season,
despite a ban on refueling that forced
Gordon Murray to adopt a larger tank.
With a refined package in the BT53,
Nelson Piquet took nine poles in 16 races.
Yet he won only twice, in Montreal and
Detroit, and finished fifth in points. The car
proved hopelessly unreliable, and Nelson
didn’t even finish until race seven in Canada.
“We should have walked it in ’ 84,” says
Murray. “The problems were all turbo
related. BMW changed to KKK – they
wanted to go to a German supplier –
and the car couldn’t finish a race without
blowing a turbo, until we went back to
Garrett. I had to go and speak to the board
at BM W to get that to happen eventually.
It’s a shame because ’ 84 for us is now
totally overlooked – people only
remember the winners. But it would have
been a much easier title than ’ 83.”
In ’ 85 the team slumped further
after switching from Michelin to Pirelli
tires. Piquet logged a single victory at
Paul Ricard with the BT54.
With Pirelli playing catchup on tire tech,
Piquet took the BT54 to just one win in ’ 85.