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First sight of the BMW turbo engine



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Nelson Piquet


Brabham-BMW BT50




1981 British GP (free practice)


It's hardly recorded, but it is in fact true that Nelson Piquet drove the first turbo Brabham in practice for the 1981 British GP.

Nelson was on a roll in 1981, having the sleek and ultra-reliable Cosworth-powered BT49C at his disposal. This Gordon Murray design even outclassed the previously dominant Williams, while the turbocharged Renaults were only just coming on song. This meant Brabham owner Bernie Ecclestone didn't want to hurt Piquet's championship chances by a mid-season change to Bavarian turbo power. But the onset of a flourishing BMW partnership was already there, which led to a short display in Silverstone's free practice.

The events of 1982 proved Bernie right, Piquet never being able to defend his title properly with the fast but very unreliable BT50. This was best shown by the disgrace of his non-qualification at Detroit, immediately followed by a shattering win in France...