The 1977 Brabham-Alfa BT45B – A world-class F1 engine

AS the 2019 Formula One season is consigned into the history books, we take a step back a little further in time to the 1970’s, the time of flared trousers, big hair and disco, and the Brabham-Alfa BT45B.

The real catalyst for Alfa Romeo’s Formula 1 comeback was the Tipo 33 TT12, which won the 1975 World Championship for Makes and provided its 12-cylinder boxer engine as a dowry for the Brand’s return to the Grand Prix circuit.

Alfa Romeo’s participation in the Formula 1 World Championship had come to an end in 1951, with the first two championships won by NinoFarina and Juan ManuelFangio in the Alfetta 158 and 159 cars. After this, there were only a few tests with Andrea De Adamich in 1970, and in 1971 with the V8 engine of a Tipo 33 mounted on a McLaren M14D chassis.

But the real opportunity came in 1975, when, winning seven races out of eight, theTipo 33 TT12 was victorious in the World Championship for Makes, proving the impressive power and reliability of its three-litre, 12-cylinder boxer.

As a result, an agreement was signed for Alfa Romeo to supply engines to the Brabham Martini Racing Teamheaded by Bernie Ecclestone, with the inspired Gordon Murray as design engineer and sponsored by Martini & Rossi. The Team intended to use an engine capable of taking on the Ferrari 12-cylinder boxer. With a few adaptations to both, the Alfa boxer was fitted into the Brabham monocoque.

It initially provided 500 horsepower at 11500 rpm, but during the following years this was to be increased to 510 and over 520 HP by upping the rpm to 12000.

Brabham-Alfa cars were driven by a succession of drivers: from Carlos Pace to John Watson and Carlos Reutemann through to World Champion Niki Lauda. The 1977 season started promisingly: Jody Scheckter won the Argentinian Grand Prix to hand the new Walter Wolf Racing team a victory in its maiden race, but behind him in second place was Brazilian Carlos Pace, who earned the Brabham-Alfa Romeo its first podium.

The BT45B debuted in Kyalami, South Africa. Once again, Carlos Pace showcased the potential of the new Brabham-Alfa Romeo by qualifying in second place, behind James Hunt’s McLaren but ahead of Niki Lauda’s Ferrari.

A few weeks after the Brazilian driver tragically died in a plane crash, his team mate John Watson secured pole position at the prestigious Monaco GP. Pace’s replacement, German driver Hans-Joachim Stuck, took the other two podiums of the 1977 season, finishing third in his home race, the German GP at Hockenheim, and repeating the feat in Austria.

The car belonging to the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese raced in the 1977 season: it still bears the number 8 used by Carlos Paceand subsequently by Hans-Joachim Stuck, and in one corner of the rear spoiler is a small Brazilian flag, in tribute to Carlos Pace.

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