Video and Gallery: Bringing the Brawn Back to Life!

Click on the Gallery tab for pictures of the Brawn BGP 001 at Goodwood.

Click on the Video tab to see the Brawn BGP 001 power up the hill at the Festival of Speed.

A highlight at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year was the sight of the Brawn BGP 001 powering up the hill in the hands of Martin Brundle, the first time the car had been seen in action since taking the 2009 Formula One title in the hands of Jenson Button. Owned by Ross Brawn, getting such a unique Grand Prix racer back in working order was not an easy task, especially with the deadline of Goodwood looming, and one entrusted to the capable hands of Frazer Deane of D3 Racing Solutions.

We spoke to Frazer at Goodwood about what it took to get the Brawn up and running, and entertaining the huge Festival of Speed crowds over the three days of the event.

“My name was put forward by a few people who knew I work on race cars and that I am very particular about what I do!” said Frazer. “I didn’t expect to get the job as getting this car going again was going to be such a big thing, but I went over to see the car in Ross’s collection, and there she was at the back of the workshop with a dust sheet over her.

“The car was complete and looked ready to go, though we were missing all the equipment to run it. There weren’t even any sockets to undo the wheel nuts, one of the first jobs was to get those made just so we could get the wheels off. We had to get bits of kit such as jacks and stands made before we could even really start looking at the car.

“The car was delivered to my workshop and we had to get all the serial numbers of parts such as the engine and gearbox as Mercedes HPP [High Performance Powertrains] wanted to know what ECUs it was running. They knew what should be on the car so it was really just a double check and we knew right away the kilometres on the engine and the life of a lot of the stuff on the car.

“Then we had to start working our way through the car. We had to crack test all the wishbones as you don’t know if anyone has ever tried to lift it up incorrectly and carbon fibre is only strong in one plane. We had to find some wheels as it was only on the one set, we managed to find – or borrow – the wheels from the other Brawn that is at Mercedes, and is now up on stands, so we could have one set on wets and one on slicks.

“We took the gearbox off the engine to check the clutch and found an issue, but we sent that to AP and they resolved it. When a car hasn’t moved for so long you just have to double-check everything. Seals can go dry, and if one of those goes you have a big mess, but the car had been stored without any oil in it, which is important as the oil will eat into some seals, but with the water in it so the water pump was wet which is a good thing.

“We had to find the right oil and then get HPE involved to try to start the car. We then had to acquire pre-heaters to warm everything up and it took three or hours to fire up first time. 

“We knew the car would fire up, it was just a case of when! We had a slight issue with a weeping oil line that we could have left, but we wanted the car to be perfect so took that off, re-fitted it and pressure tested it – all of this with a fixed deadline of making it the Festival of Speed, plus I got married while we were working on the car!

“In a car from this period your issue is always going to be software. A lot of people at Mercedes wanted to get involved, if it wasn’t for Ross and that car many of them may not have a job and a lot of them came forward and offered help and we did have to make a few calls asking for advice from people who had worked on this car in 2009.

“I have to say that Martin Brundle is looking after her for us. Pulling away in these cars is the most stressful thing, you are stressing the driveshafts and gearbox – and if we have a gearbox problem we are in a lot of trouble as there are no spare parts for that box, similarly we have no wishbones etc. for it. 

“If we have an accident then it is going to get really expensive. All the moulds for the car were disposed off, the wheels got crushed, and even after the championship year the car was painted silver and used as a demo car before Ross acquired it in 2014 and had it put back into the livery it wore at Brazil in 2009.

“It was quite an achievement to get her going. I couldn’t do it by myself and had a lot of help from people at Mercedes who had been involved in the brawn days. At Goodwood with us we had the chassis engineer and number one mechanic who had worked on the car in the Brawn days, and they have given us so much support.

“We decided to deck the awning out in Brawn livery in recognition of what the team achieved in that year, a British team and driver winning the championship! It would be great to have another car like this to work on, we’ll have to see what comes along.”

Brawn GP grew out of the sudden demise of Honda Racing F1, the Japanese manufacturer pulling out of Formula One in December 2008. They did, however, agree to sell the team to Ross Brawn – Honda Racing F1’s Technical Director – who went forward with the project which included the 2009 car which was already very well developed.

With Honda’s withdrawal the team had a car for the new season but no engines, and a deal was struck with Mercedes to run their engines which required a redesign of parts of the chassis that had been designed round the Honda powerplant. While a lot of teams were running KERS energy retrieval systems, Brawn elected to run without due to the design pressures already facing them.

The FIA waived the entry fee in recognition of the team’s situation and they promptly announced their arrival with quickest times in two of the three pre-season tests, triggering a series of protests from teams who had not spotted the potential of the ‘double diffusor’ used by Toyota, Williams but especially Brawn to such good effect in the early season.

The team’s pace continued into the first race where Jenson Button took pole and led team-mate Reubens Barrichello home for a one-two finish, the first by a new team since Mercedes in 1954. A series of wins kept Button ahead in the title race, though the car’s speed advantage was steadily eroded as the season progressed and the big-budget teams developed their cars as Brawn lived an almost race-by-race existence.

Fifth for Button in the final race at Brazil was enough to take the driver’s crown for the Briton, and with Barrichello eighth they claimed the constructor’s title too. At the end of the year the team became Mercedes GP, with many of the Brawn staff still part of that title winning squad.